Engineered iron oxide nanoparticle-polymer composites for the removal of dissolved arsenic and antimony

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Engineering Science


School of Engineering

First Advisor

Associate Professor Guangzhi SUN

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Mehdi KHIADANI

Field of Research Code



Dissolved metalloids, such as arsenic (As), antimony (Sb) and boron (B), are often found in contaminated surface waters or groundwater. Their removal is essential for protecting the water environment. This MEngSci research project investigated the use of magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticle – polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) composites, as a reusable adsorbent toremove dissolved As andSb.

Comparative experiments were carried out to examine the effectiveness ofcommercial magnetite nanoparticles, lab synthesized nanoparticles, and the composites of synthesed Fe3O4nanoparticle-PMMA, for adsorbing As (III) and Sb (III) ions. The effects of major environmental and operating parameters (e.g. pH and adsorbent dosage) were investigated.Four cycles of adsorption-desorption experiment were conducted; the results demonstrating significant capability of the composites of removing the dissolved metalloids. In addition, the competitive adsorption of As and Sb to the composites was studied in batch experiments. It was found that the affinity of antimony to the adsorbents was generally greater than arsenic ions. A variety of analytical methods, such as X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), microwave plasma atomic emission spectrometry (MP-AES) and Malvern Zetasizer, were used to characterise the properties of the composites and analyze dissolved As and Sb concentrations. Details of the experimentalprocedures and results have been presented in this MEngSci thesis. Overall, this research validated: (a) a process to synthesize Fe3O4 nanoparticle-PMMA composites; and (b) the efficiency of using the composites to remove dissolved metalloids from contaminated water.

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