Phytofiltration of hazardous cadmium, chromium, lead and zinc ions by biomass of Medicago sativa (Alfalfa)

J. L. Gardea-Torresdey, J. H. Gonzalez, K. J. Tiemann, O. Rodriguez, G. Gamez

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Previous laboratory batch experiments of Medicago savita (Alfalfa) indicated that the African shoots population had an appreciable ability to bind copper(II) and nickel(II) ions from aqueous solution. Batch laboratory pH profile, time dependency and capacity experiments were performed to determine the binding ability of the African shoots for cadmium(II), chromium(III), chromium(VI), lead(II), and zinc(II). Batch pH profile experiments for the mentioned ions indicated that the optimum pH for metal binding is approximately 5.0. Time dependency experiments for all the metals studied showed that metal binding to the African alfalfa shoots occurred within 5 min. Binding capacity experiments revealed the following amounts of metal ions bound per gram of biomass: 7.1 mg Cd(II), 7.7 mg Cr(III), 43 mg Pb(II), and 4.9 mg Zn(II). However, no binding occurred for chromium(VI). Nearly all of the metals studied were recoverable by treatment with 0.1 M HCl. Column experiments were performed to study the binding of Cd(II), Cr(III), Cr(VI), Pb(II) and Zn(II) to silica-immobilized African alfalfa shoots under flow conditions. These experiments showed that the silica immobilized African alfalfa shoots were effective for removing metal ions from solution, and over 90% of the bound Pb(II), Cu(II), Ni(II), and Zn(II), and over 70% Cd(II), were recovered after treatment with 10 bed volumes of 0.1 M HCl. The results from these studies will be useful for a novel phytofiltration technology to remove and recover heavy metal ions from aqueous solution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Alfalfa
  • Heavy metal binding
  • Medicago sativa
  • Phytofiltration
  • Recovery


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