Vermiculite is a common layered silicate clay mineral which has good adsorption and ion-exchange properties, and which is used to remove pollutants from groundwater. The adsorption by vermiculite from Heibei Province, China, of low-concentration ammonium in water was assessed here to evaluate the effects of adsorption time, particle size, adsorbent dose, pH, and temperature. Using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, the concentration of NH4+ at 1430 cm−1 was evaluated after ammonium was adsorbed by vermiculite. Based on Langmuir-model analysis, the adsorption capacity of the Chinese vermiculite (in the particle-size range 0.025–0.075 mm) for ammonium was 18 mg/g after 3 h of equilibration. Optimal adsorption occurred at pH 6–7 and 60°C, which is different from that at high ammonium concentrations. Smaller particle-size fractions showed greater degrees of adsorption. Increase in Mg2+, K+, or Na+ concentrations influenced ammonium adsorption and, therefore, indicated that cation exchange was the mechanism for ammonium uptake from low-concentration solutions.

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