Adsorption of tetracycline on kaolinite with pH-dependent surface charges
Kaolinite is a major type of clay minerals in soils of warm and humid climate. Although it has a much lower cation exchange capacity (CEC) and specific surface area compared to swelling clays, its ubiquitous existence as well as its pH-dependent surface charge makes it an important component to study the interactions between contaminants and soils. Tetracycline (TC) is a group of broad spectrum antibiotics used extensively in human and veterinary medicine. It has a high aqueous solubility and a long environmental half-life. In this study, the interactions between TC and kaolinite in aqueous solution were investigated in batch tests and supplemented by FTIR analyses. The adsorption of TC on kaolinite was mainly on the external surfaces via cation exchange as confirmed by stoichiometric desorption of exchangeable cations and simultaneous adsorption of H^+ rather than due to complexation. Under acidic conditions, a reduction in surface charge, thus the CEC, resulted in more desorption of exchangeable cations compared to TC adsorption. Fitting of the experimental data to the adsorption of different species revealed that TC^+ accounted for 4/5 of the total TC adsorbed with the remaining by zwitterion TC^0, possible via hydrogen bonding. At higher temperature, the pKa2 and pKa3 values seem to shift a pH unit lower. Due to its pH-dependent charge of kaolinite, TC adsorption is more pH dependent. The TC adsorption capacity on kaolinite was much lower compared to that on swelling clays. However, the adsorption rate constant was faster than that on swelling clays owing to surface adsorption instead of intercalation. Despite its low TC adsorption capacity, the ubiquitous existence of kaolinite in soils of warm climate may play a vital role in the fate and transport of TC in these soils.