Combining cross flow ultrafiltration and diffusion gradients in thin-films approaches to determine trace metal speciation in freshwaters

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Cross flow ultrafiltration (CFUF) and diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) with open pore gel (OP) and restricted pore gel (RP) were used to measure trace metal speciation in selected UK freshwaters. The proportions of metals present in particulate forms (>1 μm) varied widely between 40–85% Pb, 60–80% Al, 7–56% Mn, 10–49% Cu, 0–55% Zn, 20–38% Cr, 20–30% Fe, 6–25% Co, 5–22% Cd and <7% Ni. In the colloidal fraction (2 kDa–1 μm) values varied between 53–91% Pb, 33–55% Al, 21–55% Cu, 20–44% Fe, 34–36% Cr, 20–40% Cd, 7–28% Co and Ni, 2–32% Zn and <8% Mn. Wide variations were also observed in the ultrafiltered fraction (<2 kDa). These results indicated that colloids indeed influenced the occurrence and transport of Al, Fe, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cr and Pb metals in rivers, while inorganic or organic colloids did not exert an important control on Mn transport in the selected freshwaters. Of total species, total labile metal measured by DGT-OP accounted for 1.4–50% for Al, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Cd and Pb in all selected waters. Of these metals total labile Pb concentration was the lowest with value less than 1.4% although this value slightly increased after deducting particulate fractions. In some waters, a majority of total Mn, Zn and Cr is DGT labile, in which the DGT labile Mn fraction accounted for 98–118% of the total dissolved phase. In most cases, the inorganic labile concentration measured by DGT-RP was lower than the total labile metal concentration. By the combination of CFUF and DGT techniques, the concentrations of total labile and inorganic labile metal species in CFUF-derived truly dissolved phase were measured in four water samples. 100% of ultrafiltered Mn species was found to be total DGT labile. The proportions of total labile metal species were lower than those of ultrafiltered fraction for Al, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Cd and Pb in all selected waters, and Cr and Zn in some cases, indicating a large amount of natural complexing ligands with smaller size for the metals to form kinetically inert species or thermodynamically stable complexes. Observed discrepancies in metal speciation between metals and within sampling sites were related to the differences in the characteristics of the metals and the nature of water sources.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-26
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date6 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2013