Effects of chemical competition for multi-metal binding by Medicago sativa (alfalfa)

J. L. Gardea-Torresdey, K. J. Tiemann, G. Gamez, K. Dokken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Alfalfa shoot biomass has demonstrated the ability to bind an appreciable amount of cadmium(II), chromium(III), copper(II), lead(II), nickel(II), and zinc(II) separately from aqueous solutions. Since most heavy metal contaminated waters contain more than one heavy metal ion, it was necessary to determine the binding abilities of the alfalfa biomass with multi-metal solutions. Batch laboratory experiments were performed with a solution containing 0.1 mM of each of the following metal ions: cadmium(II), chromium(III), copper(II), lead(II), nickel(II), and zinc(II). We determined the pH profile, time dependency, and binding capacity by the alfalfa biomass of each metal ion under multi-elemental conditions. For all the metal ions studied, the alfalfa biomass showed to have a high affinity for metal binding around pH 5.0 within a time period of approximately 5 min. The binding capacity experiments showed that there was a preferential binding of the metal ions from the multi-elemental solution with the following amounts of metal ion bound per gram of biomass: 368.5 μmol/g for copper(II), 215.4 μmol/g for chromium(III), 168.0 μmol/g for lead(II), 56.9 μmol/g for zinc(II), 49.2 μmol/g for nickel(II), and 40.3 μmol/g for cadmium(II). Reacting the biomass from the capacity experiments with 0.1 M HCl resulted in 90% or greater recovery of bound cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc. However, only 44% of the bound chromium was recovered. These experiments show the ability of Medicago sativa (alfalfa) to bind several metal ions under multi-contaminant conditions. Similar results were obtained when the experiments were performed under flow conditions using silica-immobilized alfalfa biomass. Chromium bound on the silica-immobilized biomass was also difficult to be desorbed with 0.1 M HCl. The information obtained will be useful for the future development of an innovative technology to remove heavy metal contaminants from polluted ground waters. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999


  • Alfalfa
  • Heavy metal binding
  • Mix metal solutions
  • Multi-element
  • Phytofiltration


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of chemical competition for multi-metal binding by Medicago sativa (alfalfa)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this