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Hierarchical Composite Polyaniline–(Electrospun Polystyrene) Fibers Applied to Heavy Metal Remediation

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posted on 08.04.2015, 00:00 by José J. Alcaraz-Espinoza, Alicia E. Chávez-Guajardo, Juan C. Medina-Llamas, César A. S. Andrade, Celso P. de Melo
We describe the in situ preparation of a multipurpose hierarchical polyaniline–polystyrene (PANI–PS) composite based in the chemical polymerization of PANI on nonwoven (NW) electrospun PS mats. We performed a detailed study of the properties of these materials to select the best strategies to incorporate PANI chains into pristine NW PS mats without compromising the original porosity and mechanical flexibility of the matrices. The resulting composites presented nanostructured PANI chains highly dispersed in the interior of the NW PS mat and showed good electrical properties and surface-wetting characteristics that could be easily controlled. In particular, we show that these NW PANI–PS mats exhibit interesting properties in their interaction with heavy metal ions. For instance, their high adsorption capacities toward dispersed Hg­(II), Cd­(II), Pb­(II), Cr­(VI), and Cu­(II) ions make them promising materials for water remediation, by providing a simple manner of collecting and removing these metals from aqueous systems. In fact, the NW electrospun mats here presented do not suffer from the usual limitations found in materials commonly employed as adsorbents, such as a tendency to agglomerate or accumulate in the environment because of difficulties of properly recovering them after use. To better understand the nature of each pairwise metal–PANI interaction, we performed a thorough investigation of the optical and electrical changes induced by the metal adsorption in the NW PANI–PS mats. As a consequence of their interaction with the metal ions, the visual aspect of the mats change, a fact more evident in the case of Cr­(VI) removal, when the matrices vary their color from green to purple. These changes are related to the variation of the oxidation state of the PANI chains: as the ion metals are progressively adsorbed into the mat, they promote the conversion in varying degrees of the PANI chains from salt emeraldine to the pernigraniline form, and the mats become more resistive. We implemented an electrical impedance investigation of the charge transport characteristics of NW PANI–PS mat, and the results indicate that they are sensitive to the type of metal ion adsorbed and that the amount of ions adsorbed in each case is mostly related to the standard electrode potential of the metal considered.