Humic acids (HA) strongly affect the fate of trace metals in soils and aquatic environments. One of the remarkable properties of HA is its ability to reduce Cr(VI), an extremely toxic anion. However, it is unclear which HA components are involved in Cr(VI) reduction and possess the photo-induced properties. In this study, an ultrafiltration technique was used to fractionate HAs into four fractions of different nominal molecular weights (M w): >100, 50-100, 10-50 and <10kDa. Each HA fraction was characterized by spectroscopic analyses followed by examining Cr(VI) removal on each fraction of HA at pH 1-5. Spectroscopic results indicated that low-M w HA was enriched with polar and aromatic domains. These polar, including polar C in aliphatic region, and aromatic groups were the major sites for Cr(VI) reduction because they disappeared rapidly upon interaction with Cr(VI). As a result, low M w of HA exhibited greater efficiency of Cr(VI) reduction. Light induced the rapid transfer of electrons between chromate-phenol/carboxyl ester, or the formation of peroxide radicals or H 2O 2 through the ready decay of peroxy radicals associated with polar substituents, explained the rapid scavenging of Cr(VI) on polar and aromatic groups of HAs under illumination.
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