The fate and transport of commonly used antibiotics in soil and groundwater have attracted renewed studies due to increased sensitivities of analytical instruments and thus frequent detections of these compounds even in treated wastewater. Smectite, an important soil component, has large surface area and high cation exchange capacity, while tetracycline (TC) can exist in different forms and charges under different pH conditions. Thus, the interaction between smectite and TC in aqueous systems is of great importance. This research focused on elucidating the mechanisms of TC uptake by smectite, in terms of TC adsorption, cation desorption, and pH changes associated with TC adsorption by smectite and intercalation in smectite. TC adsorption onto smectite was a relatively fast process even though most of the adsorption sites were in the interlayer position involved in intercalation as confirmed by the expansion of d001 spacing. The TC adsorption capacity was equivalent to 0.74-1.11 times the cation exchange capacity for three of the four smectite minerals studied. Accompanying TC adsorption was simultaneous adsorption of H+, resulting in protonation of TC on the dimethylamine group. At higher TC input concentrations further adsorption of H+ resulted in the ratio of H+ adsorbed to TC adsorbed greater than one, suggesting that additionally adsorbed H+ could serve as counterions to partially offset the negative charges on the tricarbonyl or phenolic diketone functional groups. The positive correlations between cations desorbed and TC adsorbed, as well as TC adsorbed and H+ adsorbed, provided a first time evidence to confirm cation exchange as the main mechanism of TC uptake, even under neutral pH conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry