Copper-Binding Properties of Polyethylenimine-Silica Nanocomposite Particles

Alexandra Semenova, Luke W. Giles, Mark Louis P. Vidallon, Bart Follink, Paul L. Brown, Rico F. Tabor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing demand for copper resources, accompanied by increasing pollution, has resulted in an urgent need for effective materials for copper binding and extraction. Polyethylenimine (PEI) is one of the strongest copper-chelating agents but is not suitable directly (as is) for most applications due to its high solubility in water. PEI-based composite materials show potential as efficient and practical alternatives. In the present work, the interaction of copper ions with PEI-silica nanocomposite particles and precursor PEI microgels (as a reference) is investigated. It is hypothesized that the main driving force of the reaction is chelation of copper ions by amino groups in the PEI network. The presence of silica in the PEI-silica composites was shown to increase the copper-binding capacity in comparison with the parent microgel. The copper-binding behavior of etched (PEI-free "ghost") composite particles in comparison with the original composites and microgel particles shows that silica nanoparticles in the composite structure increase the number of copper-binding sites in the PEI network rather than adsorbing copper themselves. PEI-silica composites can be easily recycled after copper adsorption by simply washing in 1 M nitric acid, which results in complete copper extraction. Employing this recovery method, PEI-silica composite particles can be used for multiple, efficient cycles of copper removal and extraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10585–10600
Number of pages16
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022

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