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

Research project: Transport of toxic metals in clay landfill linings: influence of nanoparticles

Currently Active:

Landfill leachates contain a wide range of pollutants such as potentially toxic metals. The most widely used strategy for containing these toxic substances is with low hydraulic conductivity clay linings. Models of landfill lining systems, which are used to assess the risk of pollution to the surrounding environment are largely based on solute transport models derived from batch sorption data, in which contaminants are defined as partitioned between liquid and solid phases. Colloidal materials, in particular nanoparticles are not considered in these models; however, it is apparent that they interact with both solid and dissolved phases and play an important role in the transport of dissolved organic matter and metals. This research will produce data to contribute towards the development of more robust models and provide accurate and precise predictions of toxic metal behaviour.

Simplified diagram of an engineered landfill. Toxic metals must be prevented from reaching the groundwater (Source: Y Labibi)
Engineered Landfill


UK MSW leachates are characterised using several techniques:

  • Asymmetric flow-field flow fractionation (AFFF) coupled with UV-DAD and fluorescence
  • Dynamic light scattering (DLS)
  • Excitation-emission matrices (EEM)
  • Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • High resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR/ICPMS)
Active UK Municipal Solid Waste landfill site (Source: M Palmer)
Active UK MSW landfill site

Research Aims

  1. Quantify the mobility of MSNs and associated metals in leachates through low hydraulic conductivity saturated clay barrier materials using tri-axial column testing techniques, AFFF and HR-ICP-MS
  2. Determine the effects of ionic conductivities, pH and organic matter concentrations typical of pre- and post Landfill Directive landfill leachates, on the transport behaviour of manufactured nanoparticles
  3. Characterise and quantify different types of organic matter and mineralogy of MSNs isolated and concentrated from landfill leachates
  4. Identify the specific influences of size, charge and concentration on the mobility of manufactured MSNs through low hydraulic conductivity clay barrier materials under saturated conditions
(Source: Postnova)
Field flow fractionation principle

Key Contacts

Yasmin Labibi (Postgraduate research student)

Prof Martin Palmer (Supervisor)

Dr Andy Milton

Dr Dave Smallman

Dr Anne Stringfellow

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity

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