The solid–liquid interface reaction between phosphate rock (PR) and metals (Pb, Cu, and Zn) was studied. Phosphate rock has the highest affinity for Pb, followed by Cu and Zn, with sorption capacities of 138, 114, and 83.2 mmol/kg PR, respectively. In the Pb–Cu–Zn ternary system, competitive metal sorption occurred with sorption capacity reduction of 15.2%, 48.3%, and 75.6% for Pb, Cu, and Zn, respectively compared to the mono-metal systems. A fractional factorial design showed the interfering effect in the order of Pb > Cu > Zn. Desorption of Cu and Zn was sensitive to pH change, increasing with pH decline, whereas Pb desorption was decreased with a strongly acidic TCLP extracting solution (pH=2.93). The greatest stability of Pb retention by PR can be attributed to the formation of insoluble fluoropyromorphite [Pb10(PO4)6F2], which was primarily responsible for Pb immobilization (up to 78.3%), with less contribution from the surface adsorption or complexation (21.7%), compared to 74.5% for Cu and 95.7% for Zn. Solution pH reduction during metal retention and flow calorimetry analysis both supported the hypothesis of retention of Pb, Cu, and Zn by surface adsorption or complexation. Flow calorimetry indicated that Pb and Cu adsorption onto PR was exothermic, while Zn sorption was endothermic. Our research demonstrated that PR can effectively remove Pb from solutions, even in the presence of other heavy metals (e.g. Cu, Zn).

‘‘Capsule’’: Phosphate-induced formation of fluoropyromorphite is primarily responsible for Pb immobilization by phosphate rock, whereas Cu and Zn retention is mainly attributable to the surface adsorption or complexation.


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