Characterisation of structure and aggregation processes of aquatic humic substances using small-angle scattering and X-ray microscopy

Pranzas, P. Klaus; Willumeit, Regine; Gehrke, Rainer; Thieme, Jürgen; Knöchel, Arndt
July 2003
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Jul2003, Vol. 376 Issue 5, p618
Academic Journal
Aquatic humic substances (HS), an important part of the dissolved organic carbon in freshwater systems, are polyfunctional natural compounds with polydisperse structure showing strong aggregation/coagulation behaviour at high HS concentrations and in the presence of metal ions. In this study, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and X-ray microscopy (XRM) were applied to characterise the structure and aggregation processes of HS in solution. In SAXS and XRM the high brilliant synchrotron radiation was used as X-ray source. Applying small-angle scattering, information about the size distribution and shape of aquatic HS was obtained. Spherical HS units were found which were stable in a wide concentration range in a kind of "monomeric" state almost independent of pH and ionic strength. At higher concentrations they formed chain-like agglomerates or disordered HS structures. In studies on the coagulation behaviour of HS after addition of copper ions, a linear relationship between Cu2+ concentration and the formation of large disordered HS-Cu2+ agglomerates was obtained. By using X-ray microscopy, single "huge" particles were found in older solutions and in solutions with high HS concentrations. Over a threshold Cu2+ concentration of approx. 300 mg/L, the formation of an extensive HS-Cu2+ network structure was observed within a few minutes. The presented structures show the ability of the methods used to characterise processes between diluted phase and suspended matter, which play an important role particularly in the region of phase interfaces.


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