Biosorption of lead from aqueous solutions by green algae
Spirogyra species: Kinetics and equilibrium studies
V.K. Gupta∗, A. Rastogi
Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee 247667, India
Biosorption is the effective method for the removal of heavy metal ions from wastewaters. Results are presented showing the sorption of Pb(II)
from solutions by biomass of commonly available, filamentous green algae Spirogyra sp. Batch experiments were conducted to determine the
biosorption properties of the biomass and it was observed that the maximum adsorption capacity of Pb(II) ion was around 140mgmetal/g of
biomass at pH 5.0 in 100min with 200mg/L of initial concentration. Temperature change in the range 20–40◦C affected the adsorption capacity
and the nature of the reaction was found to be endothermic in nature. Uptake kinetics follows the pseudo-second-order model and equilibrium is
well described by Langmuir isotherm. Isotherms have been used to determine thermodynamic parameters of the process, viz., free energy change,
enthalpy change and entropy change. Various properties of the algae, as adsorbent, explored in the characterization part were chemical composition
and surface functionality by FTIR. FTIR analysis of algal biomass revealed the presence of amino, carboxyl, hydroxyl and carbonyl groups, which
are responsible for biosorption of metal ions. The results indicated that the biomass of Spirogyra sp. is an efficient biosorbent for the removal of
Pb(II) from aqueous solutions.
Keywords: Biosorption; Kinetics; Spirogyra sp.; Langmuir model; Thermodynamic parameters; Characterization
The presence of heavy metals in aqueous water streams has
become a problem due to their harmful effects on human health
and on the flora and fauna of receiving water bodies. It is rec-
ognized that finding methods for removal of heavy metals from
aqueous water is of great importance. Lead is among the most
toxic heavy metal ion affecting the environment . It comes
into water through the combustion of fossil fuels and the smelt-
ing of sulphide ore, and into lakes and streams by acid mine
drainage. Process industries, such as battery manufacturing and
The current EPA and WHO drinking water standard for lead is
0.05mg/L and 10?g/L, respectively. Lead accumulates mainly
in bones, brain, kidney and muscles and may cause many seri-
ous disorders like anaemia, kidney diseases, nervous disorders
∗Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 1332 285801; fax: +91 1332 273560.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (V.K. Gupta).
and sickness even death . It is therefore, essential to remove
Pb(II) from wastewater before disposal.
Several different conventional methods applied to remove
excessive heavy metals from aqueous solutions include chemi-
cal precipitation, ion exchange, evaporation, electroplating and
membrane processes. However, these methods are either ineffi-
[3,4]. Consequently, it is urgent to find new technologies or bio-
materials for removing heavy metal ions from wastewater. So,
capacity, high efficiency in dilute effluents and environmental
mulate heavy metals from wastewater by either metabolically
mediated, or physico-chemical pathways of uptake . Appli-
cation of biosorbents/biomass from various microbial sources,
moss, aquatic plants and leaf-based adsorbents was reported by
various investigators [7–12] with the aim of finding more effi-
algae have proved to possess high metal binding capacities 
due to the presence of polysaccharides, proteins or lipid on the
surface of their cell walls containing some functional groups
such as amino, hydroxyl, carboxyl and sulphate, which can act
as binding sites for metals [14,15].
metal ion on marine algae [16–19], green seaweed [20–22], and
freshwater green algal species [23–26] with varying removal
efficiencies, maximum adsorption capacities (qmax) and bind-
ing constants. Among the algal biomass used for biosorption,
Spirogyra sp. is a green filamentous, readily available source
of biomass for heavy metal removal from wastewater. Inves-
tigations conducted by several researchers demonstrated that
Spirogyra sp. is capable of accumulating heavy metals like cop-
per, chromium, zinc and fluoride [27–30], but still there is lots
of scope available to use this abundantly available alga for
the removal of other heavy metal ions from wastewaters. In
the same sequence in this investigation, biosorption studies for
the removal of Pb metal ion from wastewater by Spirogyra sp.
is carried out. The biosorbent was characterized by employ-
ing instrumental techniques, viz., Fourier transform infrared
spectroscopy (FTIR), thermo gravimetric analysis (TGA) and
scanning electron microscope (SEM). The equilibrium and
kinetics were obtained from batch experiments. The adsorp-
tion capacities were evaluated from equilibrium adsorption
isotherms and the results indicated, on comparing its adsorption
capacity with some of the other adsorbents, that it is the suit-
able material for the development of high capacity biosorbent
for Pb(II) removal.
2. Materials and methods
All chemicals used in this study were of analytical grade
obtained either from Merck, Germany or SD Fine Chem.
Ltd., India. Stock solution of lead was prepared using lead
nitrate in double distilled water. Purified water was prepared
using a Millipore Milli-Q (Bedford, MA, USA) water purifica-
tion system. Pb(II) solutions of different concentrations were
obtained by diluting the stock solution. Standard solution of
Pb(II) (1000mg/L) for atomic adsorption spectrophotometer
was obtained from Merck, Germany. Standard acid and base
solutions (0.1N HCl and 0.1N NaOH) were used for pH adjust-
atomic adsorption spectrophotometer model Z-7000 (Hitachi,
Japan) at a wavelength of 283.3nm. LEO 435 VP (Leo Elek-
tronenmikroskopie GmbH, Germany) was used for scanning
electron microscopy. Carbon content was measured by Elemen-
tar CHNS analyzer model Vario EL III (Vario EL, Elementar
temperature range 20–750◦C and BET surface area was mea-
sured using quantasorb surface analyzer. Infra red spectra of the
samples were recorded on a Perkin Elmer FTIR, Spectropho-
tometer model-1600 (Perkin Elmer, USA).
Fresh algal biomass was collected from pond near Roorkee,
India. Before use, it was washed with distilled water to remove
dirt and was kept on a filter paper to reduce the water content.
The biomass was then sun dried for 4 days followed by drying
in a oven at 70◦C for 24h and then ground on a igate stone
between 150 and 250mesh size for use.
2.4. Batch adsorption studies
The adsorption features of the biosorbent Spirogyra sp. were
investigated as a function of initial pH, initial heavy metal con-
centration, biosorbent dose, contact time and temperature. The
used to agitate the solution continuously. At the end of adsorp-
tion, 1mL sample was collected and centrifuged at 1500rpm
for 10min on a centrifuge. The remaining concentration of lead
in residual solution was analyzed by taking absorbance on the
atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Each experiment was run
in triplicate and mean values are reported. Standard deviations
were found to be within ±1.3%. Further, the error bars for the
figures were so small as to be smaller than the symbols used to
plot the graphs and, hence, not shown.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Characterization of the biosorbent
The scanning electron micrograph clearly revealed the sur-
face texture and morphology of the biosorbent (Fig. 1) at
different magnifications. It was evident from the micrographs
that the biosorbent showed a tangled mass of filaments in net
format (500× and 1.0k×). At 2.5k× and 5.0k× magnifications,
the single filament of the biosorbent was focused, where an
uneven surface texture along with lot of irregular surface format
was observed. The surface area of the algal biomass Spirogyra
sp. was observed to be 1.31m2/g by BET method. The algal
biosorbent subjected to elemental analysis showed composi-
tion of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur as 36, 5.016 and 0.57%,
Besides this, to evaluate the thermal stability of the biosor-
bent, i.e. Spirogyra sp., thermal analysis was performed by
TGA/DTA curves in an air atmosphere with a constant flow rate
of 200mL/min and a heating rate of 10◦Cmin−1(figure not
shown). The temperature scanning was conducted in the range
20–750◦C with a 10.5±0.5mg biosorbent which shows two
Fig. 1. SEM photo of algal biomass (Spirogyra sp.) at different magnifications: (i) 500×; (ii) 1.0k×; (iii) 2.5k×; (iv) 5.0k×.
steps decomposition process. These results are similar to the
results as obtained by other workers .
with KBr (0.1g). The functional groups responsible for heavy
metal ion biosorption on Spirogyra sp. is confirmed by FTIR
spectra. The FTIR spectra of native and Pb(II) treated algal
biomass (Fig. 2) indicate the presence of amino, carboxylic,
hydroxyl and carbonyl groups. Display of strong broad O–H
stretch carboxylic bands in the region 3408cm−1and car-
boxylic/phenolic stretching bands in the region of 2925cm−1
was observed. The peaks appearing in the region 1652cm−1
might be attributed to C N, C C and C O stretch whereas
the peaks appearing in the region 1538 and 1442cm−1might
represent quinine OH bonds. Now the peaks appearing in the
Fig. 2. FTIR spectra of algal biomass Spirogyra sp. (a) Native; (b) Pb(II) treated (Pb(II): 100mg/L).
Fig. 3. Effect of contact time on the extent of biosorptions at two initial lead
concentration: 100 and 200mg/L.
region 1353, 1078 and 1028cm−1represents N–H bending,
–CH3wagging and C–OH stretching vibrations, respectively,
are due to the several functional groups present on the algal cell
walls. The peaks at 524 and 467cm−1are caused by C–N–S
scissoring, which are found in polypeptide structure. As seen
in Fig. 2, the absorbance of the peaks in the Pb(II) treated algal
of the FTIR spectra showed the presence of ionisable functional
groups (i.e. carboxyl, amino, amide and hydroxyl) able to inter-
act with protons or metal ions. The above results obtained give
an idea about the presence of functional groups on the algal cell
3.2. Biosorption of heavy metal ion
3.2.1. Effect of contact time
tion of lead on algal biomass, i.e. Spirogyra sp. (at two different
initial lead concentration). It has been observed that maximum
adsorption took place within first 100min. The data obtained
from this experiment was further used successfully to evaluate
the kinetics of the adsorption process.
3.2.2. Influence of biosorbent dose
To determine the effect of adsorbent dose, different amounts
tion in which the concentration of lead was 100 and 200mg/L.
The effect of adsorbent dose on the extent of removal of lead
at optimum pH (5.0) is shown in Fig. 4. The amount of adsor-
bent significantly influenced the extent of lead adsorption. The
extent of lead biosorption was 31.2% for 0.05g/L of algal
biomass, while it was greatly increased to 80% for 10g/L of
adsorbent. However, there was only a slow change in the extent
of lead adsorption when the adsorbent dose was over 5g/L.
Furthermore, higher adsorbent dose will result in lower adsorp-
Fig. 4. Effect of adsorbent dose on the removal extent and adsorption capacity
tion capacity (qe=12mg/g) value at a fixed lead concentration
(150mg/L), as shown in Fig. 4. At low algal dose, all types of
sites are entirely exposed and the adsorption on the surface is
saturated faster, showing a higher qevalue (qe=93.5mg/g at
0.05g/L algal biomass). But at higher adsorbent dose, the avail-
ability of higher energy sites decreases with a larger fraction of
lower energy sites occupied, resulting in a lower qevalue.
3.2.3. Effect of pH
It is well known that pH could affect the protonation of the
functional groups on the biomass as well as the metal chem-
istry. The effect of pH on lead adsorption capacity of Spirogyra
sp. is shown in Fig. 5. As the pH of the lead solution (100 and
200mg/L) increased from 2.99 to 7.04, the adsorption capacity
of lead was changed, i.e. it first increased from 2.99 pH to pH
than 5, the precipitation of insoluble metal hydroxides takes
results obtained for the other adsorbent systems [26,31]. The
Fig. 5. Effect of pH on the biosorption of lead.
Fig. 6. Adsorption isotherms at three different temperatures.
cell wall matrix of green algae contains complex heteropolysac-
charides that can provide amino, carboxyl and sulphate groups
. At low pH, cell wall ligands are protonated and restrict
the approach of metal cations as a result of the repulsive force.
As pH increases, more ligands such as amino, phosphate and
carboxyl groups would be exposed and carry negative charges
with subsequent attraction of metal ions [33,34].
3.2.4. Effect of temperature
The isotherms of lead adsorption on the biosorbent, at three
different temperatures (298, 308 and 318K) are given in Fig. 6.
For an increase in temperature from 298 to 318K, an increase
in the adsorption of lead was observed. The maximum amount
adsorbed increased from 96.4 to 104mg/g at 150mg/L, initial
lead concentration. These adsorption data were further fitted to
two adsorption models to find out the suitable model.
3.2.5. Isotherms modeling
The equilibrium data presented in Fig. 6 were applied to
Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms equations. The Langmuir
isotherm is the most widely used two-parameter equation, com-
monly expressed as
centration of the adsorbate (mg/L), Q0the Langmuir constants
related to maximum monolayer adsorption capacity (mg/g) and
b is the constant related to the free energy or net enthalpy of
adsorption (b∝e−?H/RT). The plots of 1/qeversus 1/Ce(Fig. 7)
Fig. 7. Langmuir fitting of adsorption isotherms of lead on algal biomass.
were drawn for three different temperatures to calculate these
constant (Table 1). The linearized forms of the isotherms at all
temperature are found to be linear over the whole concentration
range studied, and the correlation coefficients were extremely
high, as shown in Table 1. These values of the correlation coef-
ficients strongly support the fact that the lead–algal biomass
biosorption data closely follow the Langmuir model of sorp-
tion. The high degree of correlation for the linearized Langmuir
vation energy is the predominant sorption step and possibly the
predominant rate-controlling step.
of lead on algal biomass. The logarithmic form of Freundlich
model is given by the following equation:
ln qe= ln KF+1
Therefore, plots of lnqeversus lnCe(Fig. 8) were drawn to
calculate the values of KFand 1/n which are given in Table 1.
It was found that the plots exhibit deviation from linearity at
the higher concentration range (>100mg/L). However, the cor-
relation coefficients in Table 1 indicate the data are not well
correlated to Freundlich correlation coefficients compared to
the Langmuir correlation coefficients.
By comparing the results presented in Table 1, it can be seen
that the Langmuir sorption isotherm can accurately describe the
adsorption of lead onto algal biomass in this study. The values
of Q0calculated by Langmuir equation fitting were all close
to those actually determined values at given temperatures. Ear-
lier, satisfactory fitting of the Langmuir model to the adsorption
Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms constants for the biosorption of lead on algal biomass (Spirogyra sp.) at different temperatures
Temperature (K)Langmuir constantFreundlich constant
Fig. 8. Freundlich isotherms of lead on algal biomass.
isotherms of lead was obtained on brown seaweed Turbinaria
Durvillaea potatorum and Ecklonia radiata .
The maximum adsorption capacity obtained from the Lang-
muir isotherm increased with increasing temperature, and the
value of qmwas 140.84mg/g at 298K and pH 5.0.
3.2.6. Thermodynamic study
The free energy change (?G◦), enthalpy change (?H◦) and
entropy change (?S◦) for adsorption process were calculated
using the following equations:
?G◦= −RT ln(b)
?G◦= ?H◦− T?S◦
The values of these parameters are summarized in Table 2.
The enthalpy change ?H◦is positive (endothermic) due to
increase in adsorption on successive increase in temperature.
Further, negative ?G◦values dictate spontaneous process. The
positive value of ?S◦reveals the increased randomness at the
solid–solution interface during the fixation of the lead ion on
endothermic, it follows that under these conditions the process
becomes spontaneous because of the positive entropy change.
Thermodynamic parameters for the biosorption of lead on algal biomass (Spir-
ogyra sp.) at different temperatures
aMeasured between 298 and 318K.
Fig. 9. First-order kinetic modeling of lead adsorption on algal biomass.
3.2.7. Adsorption kinetics
The pseudo-first order, rate expression of Lagergren is given
log(qe− qt) = log qe−k1,ads
where qt(mg/g) is the amount of adsorbed lead on the algal
biomass at time t and k1,ads(min−1) the rate constant of first-
order adsorption, and qeis the equilibrium sorption uptake, is
extrapolated from the experimental data at time t=infinity. A
straight line of log(qe−qt) versus t up to a certain time (Fig. 9)
suggests the slightly applicability of this kinetic model. qeand
k1,ads(Table 3) were determined from the intercept and slope of
the plot, respectively.
The pseudo second-order kinetic model  in its integrated
and linearized form has been used:
where k2,ads(gmgmin−1) is the rate constant of second-order
adsorption. The plot t/q versus t (Fig. 10) giving a straight line
shows, second-order kinetics is applicable and qe and k2,ads
(Table 3) were determined from the slope and intercept of the
plot, respectively. It is important to notice that for the appli-
cation of this model the experimental estimation of qeis not
Table 3 lists the results of rate constant studies for different
second-order models. The value of correlation coefficient R2
for the pseudo-second-order adsorption model is relatively high
(>0.997), and the adsorption capacities calculated by the model
are also close to those determined by experiments. However,
the values of R2for the pseudo-first-order are not satisfactory.
Therefore, it has been concluded that the pseudo-second-order
Comparison between adsorption rate constants, qeestimated and coefficient of correlation associated to the Lagergren pseudo-first- and -second-order adsorption
Initial concentration (mg/L)
qeexp.(mg/g)First-order model Second-order model
Fig. 10. Second-order kinetic modeling of lead adsorption on algal biomass.
Uptake capacities for Pb(II) of various adsorbents (at room temperature)
Crab shell and arca shell
Powder activated carbon
Waste bakers yeast in ethanol
Caulerpa lentillifera (Green macroalga)
adsorption model is more suitable to describe the adsorption
kinetics of lead over algal biomass.
3.3. Comparison with other adsorbents
A comparison between the results of this work and others
of Pb(II) uptake found in this work is significantly higher than
reported for other biosorbents. Thus, the comparison of adsorp-
tion capacities shows that the algae Spirogyra sp., is an efficient
biosorbent for the uptake of lead metal ion.
The batch studies conducted in the present study provides
significant information regarding biosorption of lead on green
algae Spirogyra species in terms of optimum pH and biomass
dose for maximum removal of Pb(II) from the aqueous solu-
tion. The studies indicate that Spirogyra species is an effective
capacity has been found to be 140.84mg Pb(II)/g of dry weight
of biomass at an algal dose of 0.5g/L in 100min of contact time
5.0. The Langmuir and Freundlich adsorption model were used
onto algal biomass and it was found that the adsorption equilib-
rium data fitted well to the Langmuir model. The biosorption of
lead ions on the algal biomass follows second-order biosorption
kinetics. With the advantage of high metal biosorption capacity,
the biomass of Spirogyra has the potential to be used as an effi-
cient and economic biosorbent material for the removal of lead
from aqueous solutions.
Authors are thankful to Department of Science and Technol-
ogy, New Delhi, India, for financial support.
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