Removing Adsorbed Heavy Metal Ions from Sand Surfaces via Applying Intervacial Properties of Rhamnolipid
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In this study, the interfacial properties of biosurfactant rhamnolipid were investigated and were applied to remove adsorbed heavy metal ions from sand surfaces with flushing operations. The surface tension-lowering activity, micelle charge characteristic, and foaming ability of rhamnolipid were identified first. For rhamnolipid in water, the negatively charged characteristic of micelles or aggregates was confirmed and the foaming ability at concentrations higher than 40 mg/L was evaluated. By using the rhamnolipid solutions in a batch washing approach, the potential of applying the interfacial properties of rhamnolipid to remove adsorbed copper ions from sand surfaces was then demonstrated. In rhamnolipid solution flushing operations for sand-packed medium, higher efficiency was found for the removal of adsorbed copper ions with residual type than with inner-sphere interaction type, implying the important role of interaction type between the copper ion and the sand surface in the removal efficiency. In addition, the channeling effect of rhamnolipid solution flow in the sand-packed medium was clearly observed in the solution flushing operations and was responsible for the low removal efficiency with low contact areas between solution and sand. By using rhamnolipid solution with foam to flush the sand-packed medium, one could find that the channeling effect of the solution flow was reduced and became less pronounced with the increase in the rhamnolipid concentration, or with the enhanced foaming ability. With the reduced channeling effect in the flushing operations, the removal efficiency for adsorbed copper ions was significantly improved. The results suggested that the foam-enhanced rhamnolipid solution flushing operation was efficient in terms of surfactant usage and operation time.