Ionic‐strength and pH effects on the sorption of cadmium and the surface charge of soils

R. Naidu, N. S. Bolan, R. S. Kookana, K. G. Tiller

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470 Citations (Scopus)


Two Oxisols (Mena and Malanda), a Xeralf and a Xerert from Australia and an Andept (Patua) and a Fragiaqualf (Tokomaru) from New Zealand were used to examine the effect of pH and ionic strength on the surface charge of soil and sorption of cadmium. Adsorption of Cd was measured using water, 0.01 mol dmp−3 Ca(NO3)2, and various concentrations of NaNO3 (0.01–1.5 mol dm−3) as background solutions at a range of pH values (3–8). In all soils, the net surface charge decreased with an increase in pH. The pH at which the net surface charge was zero (point of net zero charge, PZC) differed between the soils. The PZC was higher for soils dominated by variable‐charge components (Oxisols and Andept) than soils dominated by permanent charge (Xeralf, Xerert and Fragiaqualf). For all soils, the adsorption of Cd increased with an increase in pH and most of the variation in adsorption with pH was explained by the variation in negative surface charge. The effect of ionic strength on Cd adsorption varied between the soils and with the pH. In Oxisols, which are dominated by variable‐charge components, there was a characteristic pH below which increasing ionic strength of NaNO3 increased Cd adsorption and above which the reverse occurred. In all the soils in the normal pH range (i.e. pH>PZC), the adsorption of Cd always decreased with an increase in ionic strength irrespective of pH. If increasing ionic strength decreases cation adsorption, then the potential in the plane of adsorption is negative. Also, if increasing ionic strength increases adsorption below the PZC, then the potential in the plane of adsorption must be positive. These observations suggest that, depending upon the pH and PZC, Cd is adsorbed when potential in the plane of adsorption is either positive or negative providing evidence for both specific and non‐specific adsorption of Cd. Adsorption of Cd was approximately doubled when Na rather than Ca was used as the index cation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-429
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes


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