Factors controlling phosphate interaction with iron oxides

J Environ Qual. May-Jun 2012;41(3):628-35. doi: 10.2134/jeq2011.0250.


Factors such as pH, solution ion composition, and the presence of natural organic matter (NOM) play a crucial role in the effectiveness of phosphorous adsorption by iron oxides. The interplay between these factors shows a complicated pattern and can sometimes lead to controversial results. With the help of mechanistic modeling and adsorption experiments, the net macroscopic effect of single and combined factors can be better understood and predicted. In the present work, the relative importance of the above-mentioned factors in the adsorption of phosphate was analyzed using modeling and comparison between the model prediction and experimental data. The results show that, under normal soil conditions, pH, concentration of Ca, and the presence of NOM are the most important factors that control adsorption of phosphate to iron oxides. The presence of Ca not only enhances the amount of phosphate adsorbed but also changes the pH dependency of the adsorption. An increase of dissolved organic carbon from 0.5 to 50 mg L can lead to a >50% decrease in the amount of phosphate adsorbed. Silicic acid may decrease phosphate adsorption, but this effect is only important at a very low phosphate concentration, in particular at high pH.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Bicarbonates / chemistry
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Magnesium / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phosphates / chemistry*
  • Silicon Compounds / chemistry
  • Sulfates / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Bicarbonates
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Phosphates
  • Silicon Compounds
  • Sulfates
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • ferric oxide
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium