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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Nanoparticles and associated metals in landfill leachates

Currently Active: 

Landfill leachates contain a wide range of potentially toxic metals (e.g. Cr, As and Cd). Models of landfill systems are largely based on models in which contaminants are considered to be either dissolved or sorbed to solid phases. It is apparent, however, that nanoparticles interact with solid and dissolved phases and play an important role in the transport of organic matter and metals. Hence, we aim to characterise nanoparticles in a UK municipal solid waste (MSW) leachate.

(Source: Graham Turner, The Guardian
Fig1 Landfill site

Preliminary Study

A sample of landfill leachate was passed through a 0.45 mm filter and then through the AF4 device (Fig 3).

Fractions were collected for analysis by HR-ICP-MS (Fig 2).

The highlighted peak at short retention time (RT) is made up of humic and fulvic acids with masses <33kDa. The peak at RT > 40 mins is made up of larger organic particles and coating on inorganic particles.

Element concentrations of AF4 fractions measured by high resolution inductively coupled mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS) (Data: Y Labibi)
Fig2 Element concs of AF4 fractions

Conclusions/Further Work

  1. Nanoparticles are heterogeneous in size and shape
  2. Metals are mostly present bound to humic/fulvic acids
  3. Ba, Ni and Pb are more strongly partitioned into larger particles
  4. A silica-rich fraction of intermediate size is present, and is associated with Sr and Li
  5. Future development will involve on-line measurement by HR-ICP-MS to provide more detailed information about the metal association in different size fractions and in leachates from a variety of landfill sites.




Asymmetric flow-field fractionation (AF4) coupled with UV-VIS photo diode array (PDA) and fluorescence (Source: B Marsh)
Fig 3 AF4 device

Key Contacts

Prof. Martin Palmer (Principal Investigator)

Ms Yasmin Labibi (Postgraduate Research Student)

Dr. J Andy Milton (Manager, Plasma Mass Spectrometer Laboratory, Senior Researcher)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Past Present and Future Environmental Change

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity

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