Fast removal of heavy metals from water and soil samples using magnetic Fe3O4 nanoparticles

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Jan;28(4):3942-3952. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-10737-9. Epub 2020 Sep 18.


Heavy metal discharge from anthropogenic sources on open soil surfaces and in natural water bodies poses serious environmental and health concerns. In addition to the contamination reduction of metals at the source, post-discharge removal of metals using nanoparticles is one of the remediation technologies being explored nowadays due to its cost-effectiveness, being environment-friendly, and easy application as a technique. In this work, magnetic iron oxide (Fe3O4) nanoparticles were synthesized chemically and then used for the removal of heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb, and Zn) from water and soil samples. The heavy metal removal efficiency of these iron oxide nanoparticles for different metals in water was best observed at a pH of 4.5 and varied between 63.5 and 98.3%. However, the removal efficiency of these nanoparticles from the soil sample was only measured at a pH of 0.7, and heavy metal removal efficiency varied between 69.6 and 99.6%. In both soil and water samples, the most efficient remediation time was less than 20 min, after which desorption and even dissolution of the nanoparticles can occur at a highly acidic pH. Among all selected metals for removal, lead showed the best adsorption and hence removal efficiency. The nanoparticles were characterized using the TEM, XRD, and FTIR techniques. The adsorption efficiency of various metals was estimated by using atomic absorption spectroscopy. The results suggest that the removal efficiency and stability of adsorbed products can further be improved by adjusting the pH higher towards 7 and also perhaps by modifying the nanoparticles with functional groups. The primary advantage of the magnetic un-coated nanoparticles is easy and efficient removal of the nanoparticles from the treated solutions by using an ordinary magnet.

Keywords: Heavy metals; Nano-remediation; Nanoparticles; Removal efficiency; Retention time.

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Phenomena
  • Metals, Heavy* / analysis
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Patient Discharge
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants* / analysis
  • Water


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water