LNNano - Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory

Environmental Nanotech – Green method for coating carbon nanotubes with humic acid for water remediation


Coating carbon nanotubes with humic acid using an eco-friendly mechanochemical method: Application for Cu(II) ions removal from water and aquatic ecotoxicity

Côa, F.,  Strauss, M.,  Clemente, Z.,  Rodrigues Neto, L.L.,  Lopes, J.R.,  Alencar, R.S.,  Souza Filho, A.G.,  Alves, O.L.,  Castro, V.L.S.S.,  Barbieri, E.,  Martinez, D.S.T.

Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory (LNNano), Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

Instituto de Pesca – APTA-SAA/SP, Cananéia, São Paulo, Brazil

Laboratory of Ecotoxicology and Biosafety, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa Environment), Jaguariúna, São Paulo, Brazil


In this work, industrial grade multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) were coated with humic acid (HA) for the first time by means of a milling process, which can be considered an eco-friendly mechanochemical method to prepare materials and composites. The HA-MWCNT hybrid material was characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopies (SEM and STEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), termogravimetric analysis (TGA), and Raman spectroscopy. STEM and AFM images demonstrated that the MWCNTs were efficiently coated by the humic acid, thus leading to an increase of 20% in the oxygen content at the nanotube surface as observed by the XPS data. After the milling process, the carbon nanotubes were shortened as unveiled by SEM images and the values of ID/IG intensity ratio increased due to shortening of the nanotubes and increasing in the number defects at the graphitic structure of carbon nanotubes walls. The analysis of TGA data showed that the quantity of the organic matter of HA on the nanotube surface was 25%. The HA coating was responsible to favor the dispersion of MWCNTs in ultrapure water (i.e. – 42 mV, zeta-potential value) and to improve their capacity for copper removal. HA-MWCNTs hybrid material adsorbed 2.5 times more Cu(II) ions than oxidized MWCNTs with HNO3, thus evidencing that it is a very efficient adsorbent material for removing copper ions from reconstituted water. The HA-MWCNTs hybrid material did not show acute ecotoxicity to the tested aquatic model organisms (Hydra attenuata, Daphnia magna, and Danio rerio embryos) up to the highest concentration evaluated (10 mg L- 1). The results allowed concluding that the mechanochemical method is effective to coat carbon nanotubes with humic acid, thus generating a functional hybrid material with low aquatic toxicity and great potential to be applied in environmental nanotechnologies such as the removal of heavy metal ions from water.

Science of the Total Environment
Volume 607-608, 31 December 2017, Pages 1479-1486

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.045