Adsorption characteristics and mechanisms of water-soluble polymers (PVP and PEG) on kaolin and montmorillonite minerals

Xintu Wang, Yanghui Xu, Qin Ou, Wenwen Chen, Walter van der Meer, Gang Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


The excessive use and accumulation of water-soluble polymers (WSPs, known as “liquid plastics”) in the environment can pose potential risks to both ecosystems and human health, but the environmental fate of WSPs remains unclear. Here, the adsorption behavior of WSPs with different molecular weight on kaolinite (Kaol) and montmorillonite (Mt) were examined. The results showed that the adsorption of PEG and PVP on minerals were controlled by hydrogen bond and van der Waals force. The Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra and two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy (2D-COS) analysis revealed that there were interactions between the Al-O and Si-O groups of the minerals and the polar O- or N-containing functional groups as well as the alkyl groups of PEG and PVP. The adsorption characteristics of WSPs were closely related to their molecular weight and the pore size of minerals. Due to the relatively large mesopore size of Kaol, both PEG and PVP were absorbed into inner spaces, for which the adsorption capacity increased with molecular weight of the polymers. For Mt, all types of PEG could enter its micropores, while PVP with larger molecular weights appeared to be confined externally, leading to a decrease in the adsorption capacity of PVP with increasing molecular weight. The findings of this study provide a theoretical basis for scientific evaluation of environmental processes of WSPs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133592
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2024


  • Adsorption
  • Hydrogen bond
  • Minerals
  • Molecular weight
  • Water-soluble polymers


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