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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 5, p. 682-686
    Received: Jan 23, 1976
    Accepted: May 4, 1976

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Scanning Electron Microscopy of a Humic Acid and of a Fulvic Acid and its Metal and Clay Complexes1

  1. Y. Chen and
  2. M. Schnitzer2



A Scanning Electron Microscope was used to explore the effect of varying the pH on the shape, size, and degree of aggregation of humic and fulvic acid particles. The structure of the complexes formed by fulvic acid when reacted with Cu2+, Al3+, Fe2+, and Fe3+ was also studied, as was the reaction product of Na-montmorillonite and fulvic acid.

At low pH (2–3), fulvic acid occurred mainly as elongated fibers and bundles of fibers, forming a relatively open structure. With increase in pH (4–7), the fibers tended to mesh into a finely-woven network to yield a sponge-like structure. Above pH 7, a distinct change in structural arrangement and improved orientation was observed. At pH 8, the fulvic acid formed sheets which tended to thicken at pH 9. At pH 10, fine, homogeneous grains were visible. The effect of pH on the humic acid structure was similar to that observed on fulvic acid except that because of low solubility in water, the pH range had to be narrowed to between 6 and 10 and the pH at which the major transitions occurred was higher.

Micrographs of fulvic acid-metal and fulvic acid-clay complexes show interesting possibilities for the use of this approach in investigations on metal- and clay-humic complexes.

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