Effect of humic acid and transition metal ions on the debromination of decabromodiphenyl by nano zero-valent iron: Kinetics and mechanisms

Lei TAN, Bin LIANG, Zhanqiang FANG, Yingying XIE, Po Keung Eric TSANG

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E-waste sites are one of the main sources of the pollutant decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE209); contaminated farmland and water bodies urgently need to be remediated. As a potential in situ remediation technology, nano zero-valent iron (nZVI) technology effectively removes PBDEs. However, the humic acid (HA) and heavy metals in the contaminated sites affect the remediation effects. In this study, we explored the influence of HA and transition metals on the removal of PBDEs by nZVI. The specific surface area and average size of the nZVI particles we prepared were 35 m²/g and 50–80 nm, respectively. The results showed that HA inhibited the removal of PBDEs; as the concentration of HA increased, its inhibitory effect intensified and the k obs decreased. However, the three metal ions (Cu²⁺, Co²⁺, and Ni²⁺) enhanced the removal of PBDEs. The enhancement effect was followed the order Ni2+ > Cu²⁺ > Co²⁺. As the concentration of metal ions increased, the promotion effect improved. The synergistic effect of HA and the metal ions was manifested in the combination of the inhibitory effect and the enhancement effect. The values of the first-order kinetic constants (k obs) under the combined effect were between the values of the rate constants under the individual components. The inhibitory mechanism was the chemisorption of HA, i.e., the benzene carboxylic and phenolic hydroxyl groups in HA occupied the surfactant reactive sites of nZVI, thus inhibiting the removal of BDE209. The promotion mechanism of Cu²⁺, Co²⁺, and Ni²⁺ can be explained by their reduction to zero valence on the nZVI surface; furthermore, Ni²⁺ strongly affects the debromination and dehydrogenation of BDE209, leading to a stronger promotability than Cu²⁺or Co²⁺. Copyright © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2786
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


Humic Substances
Transition metals
Metal ions
metal ions
Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
transition metals
decabromobiphenyl ether
Heavy Metals


Tan, L., Liang, B., Fang, Z., Xie, Y., Tsang, E. P. (2014). Effect of humic acid and transition metal ions on the debromination of decabromodiphenyl by nano zero-valent iron: Kinetics and mechanisms. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 16, Article 2786.


  • Decabromodiphenyl ether
  • Nano zero-valent iron
  • Humic acid
  • Metal ions
  • Debromination