Impact of humic/fulvic acid on the removal of heavy metals from aqueous solutions using nanomaterials: a review

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Jan 15:468-469:1014-27. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.09.044. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


Nowadays nanomaterials have been widely used to remove heavy metals from water/wastewater due to their large surface area and high reactivity. Humic acid (HA) and fulvic acid (FA) exist ubiquitously in aquatic environments and have a variety of functional groups which allow them to complex with metal ions and interact with nanomaterials. These interactions can not only alter the environmental behavior of nanomaterials, but also influence the removal and transportation of heavy metals by nanomaterials. Thus, the interactions and the underlying mechanisms involved warrant specific investigations. This review outlined the effects of HA/FA on the removal of heavy metals from aqueous solutions by various nanomaterials, mainly including carbon-based nanomaterials, iron-based nanomaterials and photocatalytic nanomaterials. Moreover, mechanisms involved in the interactions were discussed and potential environmental implications of HA/FA to nanomaterials and heavy metals were evaluated.

Keywords: Heavy metals; Humic/fulvic acid; Interaction mechanism; Nanomaterials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzopyrans / chemistry*
  • Humic Substances*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Photochemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Benzopyrans
  • Humic Substances
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • fulvic acid