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Journal Articles Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Year : 2010

Semi-empirical proton binding constants for natural organic matter


Average proton binding constants (KH,i) for structure models of humic (HA) and fulvic (FA) acids were estimated semi-empirically by breaking down the macromolecules into reactive structural units (RSUs), and calculating KH,i values of the RSUs using linear free energy relationships (LFER) of Hammett. Predicted log KH,COOH and log KH,Ph-OH are 3.73 ± 0.13 and 9.83 ± 0.23 for HA, and 3.80 ± 0.20 and 9.87 ± 0.31 for FA. The predicted constants for phenolic-type sites (Ph-OH) are generally higher than those derived from potentiometric titrations, but the difference may not be significant in view of the considerable uncertainty of the acidity constants determined from acid–base measurements at high pH. The predicted constants for carboxylic-type sites agree well with titration data analyzed with Model VI (4.10 ± 0.16 for HA, 3.20 ± 0.13 for FA; Tipping, 1998), the Impermeable Sphere model (3.50–4.50 for HA; Avena et al., 1999), and the Stockholm Humic Model (4.10 ± 0.20 for HA, 3.50 ± 0.40 for FA; Gustafsson, 2001), but differ by about one log unit from those obtained by Milne et al. (2001) with the NICA-Donnan model (3.09 ± 0.51 for HA, 2.65 ± 0.43 for FA), and used to derive recommended generic values. To clarify this ambiguity, 10 high-quality titration data from Milne et al. (2001) were re-analyzed with the new predicted equilibrium constants. The data are described equally well with the previous and new sets of values (R2 greater-or-equal, slanted 0.98), not necessarily because the NICA-Donnan model is overparametrized, but because titration lacks the sensitivity needed to quantify the full binding properties of humic substances. Correlations between NICA-Donnan parameters are discussed, but general progress is impeded by the unknown number of independent parameters that can be varied during regression of a model fit to titration data. The high consistency between predicted and experimental KH,COOH values, excluding those of Milne et al. (2001), gives faith in the proposed semi-empirical structural approach, and its usefulness to assess the plausibility of proton stability constants derived from simulations of titration data.

Dates and versions

insu-00549804 , version 1 (22-12-2010)



Anthony Matynia, Thomas Lenoir, Benjamin Causse, Lorenzo Spadini, Thierry Jacquet, et al.. Semi-empirical proton binding constants for natural organic matter. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 2010, 74, pp.1836-1851. ⟨10.1016/J.GCA.2009.12.022⟩. ⟨insu-00549804⟩
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