Clay-bionanocomposites with sacran megamolecules for the selective uptake of neodymium†
Sacran, an anionic megamolecular polysaccharide extracted from the cyanobacterium Aphanothece sacrum, is an interesting biopolymer for developing functional clay-based bionanocomposites due to its colloidal and metal complexing properties. This work introduces novel bionanocomposites based on the assembly of sacran to sepiolite, a fibrous hydrated magnesium silicate, reporting some of their special features. Sacran–sepiolite films show tensile moduli about twice that of neat sacran films, and improved resistance and integrity in aqueous solutions. These materials can act as adsorbents of lanthanide ions, profiting from the well-known adsorption properties of sepiolite and the ability of sacran to complex rare earth and heavy metal ions. Sacran–sepiolite materials show a clear preference for Nd3+ ions over Ce3+, Eu3+ and Gd3+, and the results confirm the influence of the conformation of sacran chains in crystalline domains on the adsorption properties. In fact, only those materials prepared from concentrated sacran solutions, with the polysaccharide chains arranged as liquid crystals, and involving around 27% (w/w) of sepiolite showed a remarkable synergistic effect on the retention of Nd3+ ions, being promising as biosorbents for the effective and selective recovery of neodymium from aqueous media.