Adsorption and desorption of phosphate on calcite and aragonite in seawater

Frank Millero, Fen Huang, Xiaorong Zhu, Xuewu Liu, Jia Zhong Zhang

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164 Scopus citations


The adsorption and desorption of phosphate on calcite and aragonite were investigated as a function of temperature (5-45 °C) and salinity (0-40) in seawater pre-equilibrated with CaCO3. An increase in temperature increased the equilibrium adsorption; whereas an increase in salinity decreased the adsorption. Adsorption measurements made in NaCl were lower than the results in seawater. The higher values in seawater were due to the presence of Mg2+ and Ca2+ ions. The increase was 5 times greater for Ca2+ than Mg2+. The effects of Ca2+ and Mg2+ are diminished with the addition of SO2-"4 apparently due to the formation of MgSO4 and CaSO4 and CaSO4 complexes in solution and/or SO2-4 adsorption on the surface of CaCO3. The adsorbed Ca2+ and Mg2+ on CaCO3 (at carbonate sites) may act as bridges to PO3-4 ions. The bridging effect of Ca2+ is greater than Mg2+ apparently due to the stronger interactions of Ca2+ with PO3-4. The apparent effect of salinity on the adsorption of PO4 was largely due to changes in the concentration of HCO-3 in the solutions. An increase in the concentration of HCO-3 caused the adsorption of phosphate to decrease, especially at low salinities. The adsorption at the same level of HCO-3 (2 mM) was nearly independent of salinity. All of the adsorption measurements were modeled empirically using a Langmuir-type adsorption isotherm [PO4]ad = KmCm[PO4]T/(1 + Km[PO4]T), where [PO4]ad and [PO4]T are the adsorbed and total dissolved phosphate concentrations, respectively. The values of Cm (the maximum monolayer adsorption capacity, (mol/g) and Km (the adsorption equilibrium constant, g/(mol) over the entire temperature (t, °C) and salinity (S) range were fitted to Cm = 17.067 + 0.1707t - 0.4693S + 0.0082S2 (σo = 0.7) In Km = -2.412 + 0.0165t - 0.0004St - 0.0008S2 (σ = 0.1) These empirical equations reproduce all of our measurements of [PO4]ad up to 14 μmol/g and within ±0.7 μmol/g. The kinetic data showed that the phosphate uptake on carbonate minerals appears to be a multi-step process. Both the adsorption and desorption were quite fast in the first stage (less than 30 min) followed by a much slower process (lasting more than 1 week). Our results indicate that within 24 hours aragonite has a higher sorption capacity than calcite. The differences between calcite and aragonite become smaller with time. Consequently, the mineral composition of the sediments may affect the short-term phosphate adsorption and desorption on calcium carbonate. Up to 80% of the adsorbed phosphate is released from calcium carbonate over one day. The amount of PO4 left on the CaCO3 is close to the equilibrium adsorption. The release of PO4 from calcite is faster than from aragonite. Measurements with Florida Bay sediments produced results between those for calcite and aragonite. Our results indicate that the calcium carbonate can be both a sink and source of phosphate in natural waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalAquatic Geochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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