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Chemosphere. 2003 Sep;52(10):1701-10.

Relation between extracellular polymers' composition and its ability to complex Cd, Cu and Pb.

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Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Universite de Limoges, 123 Avenue Albert Thomas, F-87060 Cedex, Limoges, France.


Activated sludges originated from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) play an important role in heavy metal removal from effluents. Extracellular polymers (ECP) form a major part of the activated sludge and are heavily involved in biosorption of heavy metals. The complexation of three heavy metals (Cd, Cu and Pb) with ECP extracted from six activated sludges, originated from different WWTPs, was investigated at pH 7. ECP in the study were shown to be mainly composed of proteins, humic acids, uronic acids and polysaccharides along with smaller amounts of lipids and nucleic acids. IR spectra confirmed the presence of the functional groups usually found in the ECP and the content in each fraction was determined using colorimetric methods. The determination of surface charge was carried out on each ECP sample and allowed two pK(a) values characteristic of two distinctive functional groups to be determined. At the pH used in the study, the value of these constants indicates that only one functional group is under protonated form. A polarographic method was used to determine the complexation parameters (number of binding sites and complexation constant) of ECP solutions towards metals. The following orders were established for the number of binding sites: Cu > Pb > or = Cd and for the stability of the ECP-metal complex: Cd > Pb approximately = Cu. A matrix of correlation between the composition of the polymers and the complexation parameters showed that the number of binding sites and the complexation constant were strongly linked to proteins, polysaccharides and humic substances content.

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