Determining Sorption Properties of Pyrogenic Black Carbon for Some Heavy Metals

Friday, 19 December 2014
Phoebe Nicholls, Daniel D Cadol and Amy Galanter, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Socorro, NM, United States
There have been two major fires in the Valles Caldera, located in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico, within the last three years: the Thompson Ridge fire (June 2013) and the Las Conchas fire (July 2011). During forest fires, contaminants are released from the incomplete combustion of organic matter, from mineral assemblages of the natural soil, and from pre-existing contaminants that have accumulated in biomass and soils. The transport and sequestration of these contaminants is an important factor in determining environmental soil and water quality following fires. Soils containing black carbon (BC) have high sorption capacities for certain contaminants due to its high surface area and cation exchange capacity.

The purpose of this project is to quantify the sorption properties of pyrogenic black carbon (PyC), or black carbon formed after the incomplete combustion of organic carbon during forest fires, and soils found in recently burned areas of Northern NM and to determine the environmental impact of soils containing PyC. We used batch equilibrium experiments to determine the sorption properties of BC for selected metals (chromium, lead, and arsenic). Samples tested include naturally occurring soils, concentrated PyC, mixtures of soil and PyC, industrial BC, and a control with low carbon and sorption.

Contaminant concentrations were also measured from the soils sampled in the field site. Preliminary results suggest that industrial BC has the highest sorption capacity for heavy metals and the quickest time to equilibrium. As PyC concentrations in the soil increase, sorption capacity is expected to increase. With complete results, the environmental significance of black carbon in the soil, including how PyC affects the transport of solutes in soils, will be evaluated.