Lead (Pb) sorption to hydrophobic and hydrophilic zeolites in the presence and absence of MTBE

Yunhui Zhang, Daniel S. Alessi, Ning Chen, Mina Luo, Weiduo Hao, Md Samrat Alam, Shannon L. Flynn, Janice P.L. Kenney, Kurt O. Konhauser, Yong Sik Ok, Abir Al-Tabbaa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The co-contamination of the environment by metals and organic pollutants is a significant concern, and one such example is lead (Pb) and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) due to their historic use as fuel additives. Clinoptilolite is an abundant and efficient zeolite for metal removal, but the potential interference of co-existing organic pollutants on metal removal, such as MTBE, have rarely been discussed. In this study, a combination of batch sorption tests and synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopic analyses were employed to investigate Pb sorption mechanism(s) onto clinoptilolite in the presence and absence of MTBE. A comparison was made to synthetic ZSM-5 zeolite to gain insights into differences in Pb binding mechanisms between hydrophilic (clinoptilolite) and hydrophobic (ZSM-5) zeolites. Site occupancy and surface precipitation contributed equally to Pb removal by clinoptilolite, while surface precipitation was the main Pb removal mechanism for ZSM-5 followed by site occupancy. Despite the negligible effect of 100 mg/L MTBE on observed Pb removal from solution by both zeolites, a surface-embedded Pb removal mechanism, through the Mg site on clinoptilolite surface, arises when MTBE is present. This study provides an understanding of atomic-level Pb uptake mechanisms on zeolites, with and without co-contaminating MTBE, which aids in their application in water treatment at co-contaminated sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126528
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct 15


  • Advanced spectroscopic analysis
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Sorbent
  • Surface coating
  • Zeolite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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