Dual Shelled Fe3O4/Polydopamine Hollow Microspheres as an Effective Eu(III) Adsorbent

Significance Statement

The need for curbing nuclear waste produced from modern technological industries is very important as it poses risk to health and ecosystem. Recently, technologies involving the use of nanomaterials to remove these wastes have shown certain positive results.

However, there arises a need for enhancing the adsorption qualities of these nanomaterials. Researchers have discovered that polydopamine when synthesized with magnetic nanoparticles have high adsorption qualities. Hence, different morphologies of the synthesis of polydopamine and magnetic nanoparticles have been investigated to get a desired adhesive and removal qualities of these toxic wastes that arises from nuclear energy.

Professor Ken Cham-Fai Leung and colleagues for the first time synthesized magnetite (Fe3O4) and polydopamine dual shelled microspheres with hollows also having controllable tunable features. Characterization of the synthesized magnetic nanoparticle was carried out with the aid of X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and MPMS XL magnetometer. Their work was published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Results from scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy confirmed rapid polymerization with the well-ordered arrangement of monodispersed synthesis of polydopamine layer on hollow core of magnetite. The shell thickness of the hollow microsphere was 50nm with its core size at 260nm. Depending on the concentration of polydopmaine on magnetite hollow spheres, the shell thickness and total size could be controlled, verifying the tunable properties provided by the synthesis process.

As a result of polymerization of polydopamine layer which was attributed to polyacrylamide chains, surface coatings on the magnetite hollow sphere were found both on the inner and outer surfaces. They also discovered that surface state and core size of the magnetite played a major role in determining the uniform coating and less variable aggregates of the encapsulated polydopamine nanoparticles.

The synthesized method by the way of the authors when tested with other magnetic nanoparticle shapes also provided uniform and well-ordered coating of polydopamine shells on their respective core size.

The authors further tested the synthesized polydopamine and magnetic hollow sphere for entrapment of europium, a nuclear fission product. At first, it became discovered that the pH values of the electrolyte solution played a major role in the adsorption of the waste element. When observed for a period of 60min, the removal capacity for the synthesized polydopamine with magnetic hollow sphere was found to be higher compared to that of uncoated magnetic hollow spheres.

Adsorption capacity for the europium ion Eu (III) entrapment was also found to be 151.05mg g-1 compared to the uncoated magnetic hollow spheres with an adsorption capacity of 100.32mg g-1 for europium ion entrapment. The former also had a higher diffusion rate of europium ions compared to the latter.

When compared with other magnetic nanomaterials, the synthesized polydopamine with magnetic hollow sphere possessed the highest adsorption capacity for europium ion entrapment.

In this study the authors were able to develop an enhanced magnetic nanoparticle, having an excellent adsorption rate for nuclear waste which is neither capital intensive or harmful to the environment. 

Dual Shelled Fe3O4Polydopamine Hollow Microspheres as an Effective Eu(III) Adsorbent - advances in engineering
Figure. Morphology of different porous dual-shelled spheres and rods by transmission electron microscopy.

About the author

Prof. Dr. Qunling Fang is an associate professor of the School of Medical Engineering, Hefei University of Technology (HFUT), Hefei, P. R. China. She received her Bachelor Degree from Anhui Normal University in 2003. She was a teacher in Feixi Normal School between 2003-2005. Then, she earned her MSc from University of Science and Technology of China in 2008 and PhD from Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2011. She was appointed as a Lecture in 2012 at HFUT and promoted to associate professor in 2015.

Her current research focuses on the development of novel nanomaterials for pollution separation, catalysis, drug delivery and photodynamic therapy.

About the author

Shengxia Duan graduated from Liaocheng University with a Master’s degree in organic chemistry in 2015, P. R. China. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences under the joint supervision of Dr. Jiaxing Li.

Her research focuses on the synthesis of nanomaterials, plasma modification and their application in pollution management.

About the author

Prof. Dr. Jiaxing Li studied chemistry in Lanzhou University and received B.S. in 2001. He completed a PhD study in organic chemistry in 2008 from University of Science and Technology of China and joined Institute of Plasma Physics, CAS, China in 2008. Currently, he is an associate professor who mainly focuses on the physicochemical behavior of heavy metal ions and radionuclides in the environment, and the application of nanomaterials in pollution management. Parts of his research work are published in Environ. Sci. Technol., ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, J. Mater. Chem. A, Nanoscale, Chem-Eur. J, J. Hazard. Mater., Chem. Eng. J., Dalton. Trans, etc. Now he has published more than 60 papers and holds 3 patents.

He was selected as a “Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers” in 2015 and 2016 and “Elsevier Most Cited Chinese Researchers” in 2016.

About the author

Prof. Dr. Ken Cham-Fai LEUNG is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Assistant to Director at the Institute of Creativity, and a member in the State Key Laboratory of Environmental and Biological Analysis, The Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR, P. R. China. He concurrently holds the Honorary Associate Professorship at the Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Hong Kong.

His research interests are in the field of materials chemistry, catalysis, nanoscience, and nanomedicine. He gained his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He conducted a three-year postdoctoral research work in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Sir J. Fraser Stoddart at The California NanoSystems Institute at The University of California Los Angeles, USA. He started his independent research career at The Chinese University of Hong Kong before moving to The Hong Kong Baptist University.

He has published over 90 research papers in peer-reviewed international journals with over 3,500 times of citation and an h-index of 33. He is the recipient of Croucher Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Asian Core Program Lectureship Awards, Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Award (Technology Advancement, First Class) from the Ministry of Education of China, Materials Research Contribution Awards from the Asia Pacific Society for Materials Research, Asian Rising Stars Award from the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies, and HKBU Faculty Performance Award for Outstanding Performance in Teaching.


Fang, Q.1, Duan, S.2, Zhang, J.1, Li, J.2,4, Leung, K.C.F3. Dual Shelled Fe3O4/Polydopamine Hollow Microspheres as an Effective Eu(III) Adsorbent , Journal of Materials Chemistry A. 2017, 5, 2947-2958.

[expand title=”Show Affiliations”]
  1. School of Medical Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, P. R. China
  2. Institute of Plasma Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 1126, Hefei 230031, P. R. China
  3. Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, P. R. China
  4. Collaborative Innovation Center of Radiation Medicine of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, P. R. China


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