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Deciphering competitive interactions: Phosphate and organic matter binding on goethite through experimental and theoretical insights (2024.0)

Ahmed A., Morshedizad M., Kühn O., Leinweber P.

Science of The Total Environment, 940 (), 173510



The adsorption of phosphorus (P) onto active soil surfaces plays a pivotal role in immobilizing P, thereby influencing soil fertility and the filter function of soil to protect freshwater systems from eutrophication. Competitive anions, such as organic matter (OM), significantly affect the strength of this P-binding, eventually controlling P mobility and release, but surprisingly, these processes are insufficiently understood at the molecular level. In this study, we provide a molecular-level perspective on the influence of OM on P binding at the goethite-water interface using a combined experimental-theoretical approach. By examining the impact of citric acid (CIT) and histidine (HIS) on the adsorption of orthophosphate (OP), glycerol phosphate (GP), and inositol hexaphosphate (IHP) through adsorption experiments and molecular dynamics simulations, we address fundamental questions regarding P binding trends, OM interaction with the goethite surface, and the effect of OM on P adsorption. Our findings reveal the complex nature of P adsorption on goethite surfaces, where the specific OM, treatment conditions (covering the surface with OM or simultaneous co-adsorption), and initial concentrations collectively shape these interactions. P adsorption on goethite exhibits a binding strength increasing in the order of GP < OP < IHP. Crucially, this trend remains consistent across all adsorption experiments, regardless of the presence or absence of OM, CIT, or HIS, and irrespective of the specific treatment method. Notably, OP is particularly susceptible to inhibition by OM, while adsorption of GP depends on specific OM treatments. Despite being less sensitive to OM, IHP shows reduced adsorption, especially at higher initial P concentrations. Of significance is the strong inhibitory effect of CIT, particularly evident when the surface is pre-covered, resulting in a substantial 70 % reduction in OP adsorption compared to bare goethite. The sequence of goethite binding affinity to P and OM underscores a higher affinity of CIT and HIS compared to OP and GP, suggesting that OM can effectively compete with both OP and GP and replace them at the surface. In contrast, the impact of OM on IHP adsorption appears insignificant, as IHP exhibits a higher affinity than both CIT and HIS towards the goethite surface. The coverage of goethite surfaces with OM results in the blocking of active sites and the generation of an unfavorable electric potential and field, inhibiting anion adsorption and consequently reducing P binding. It is noteworthy that electrostatic interactions predominantly contribute more to the binding of P and OM to the surface compared to dispersion interactions.