Proton and Copper Binding to Humic Acids Analyzed by XAFS Spectroscopy and Isothermal Titration Calorimetry

Proton and copper (Cu) binding to soil and lignite-based humic acid (HA) was investigated by combining X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), and nonideal-competitive-adsorption (NICA) modeling. NICA model calculations and XAFS results showed that bidentate and monodentate complexation occurred for Cu binding to HA. The site-type-specific thermodynamic parameters obtained by combining ITC measurements and NICA calculations revealed that copper binding to deprotonated carboxylic-type sites was entropically driven and that to deprotonated phenolic-type sites was driven by entropy and enthalpy. Copper binding to HA largely depended on the site-type and coordination environment, but the thermodynamic binding mechanisms for Cu binding to the specific site-types were similar for the different HAs studied. By comparing the site-type-specific thermodynamic parameters of HA–Cu complexation with those of low molar mass organic acids, the Cu coordination could be further specified. Bidentate carboxylic–Cu complexes made the dominating contributions to Cu binding to HA. The present study not only yields molecular-scale mechanisms of ion binding to carboxylic- and phenolic-type sites of HA but also provides the new insight that the universal nature of site-type-specific thermodynamic data enables quantitative estimation of the binding structures of heavy metal ions to humic substances.