Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 151–164 | Cite as

Recent advances on magnetic biosorbents and their applications for water treatment

  • Sofia F. Soares
  • Tiago Fernandes
  • Tito Trindade
  • Ana L. Daniel-da-SilvaEmail author


Water pollution threatens environment and human health. Common polymer-based sorbents are used to trap pollutants by these sorbents are difficult to separate from treated water and, in turn, their application is limited. Alternatively, nanomaterials with magnetic features offer the advantage of fast and easy magnetically-assisted separation. Moreover, the surface modification of magnetic nanoparticles with biopolymers enhances their adsorptive capabilities. We review recent developments on magnetic biosorbents for water treatment. We present chemical strategies for the surface modification of magnetic nanoparticles with biopolymers to obtain highly effective, robust and reusable biosorbents. This can be done by two strategies: in situ functionalization and post-synthesis functionalization. Post-synthesis functionalization is done in two distinct stages, the synthesis of the magnetic nanoparticles and the surface functionalization, thus allowing better control of each stage individually. Surface functionalization involves either simple coating or the covalent attachment of the biopolymer chains to the surface. Overall, covalent immobilization of the biopolymer onto the particle’s surface is recommended to ensure successful recycling and reuse of the biosorbents without significant loss of adsorption capacity. Finally, we discuss the performance of several magnetic biosorbents in the uptake of heavy metal species and organic pollutants from water.


Biopolymers Magnetic nanoparticles Biosorbents Bionanocomposites Surface modification Magnetic separation Pollutant uptake Heavy metal ions Organic pollutants 



This work was developed in the scope of the Project CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials, POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007679 (FCT Ref. UID/CTM/50011/2013) and UID/CTM/50011/2019, financed by national funds through the FCT/MEC, and when appropriate cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement. S. F. Soares thanks the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) for the PhD Grant SFRH/BD/121366/2016. T. Fernandes thanks FCT for the PhD Grant SFRH/BD/130934/2017. A. L. D.-d.-S. acknowledges FCT for the research contract under the Program ‘Investigador FCT’ 2014.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, CICECO-Aveiro Institute of MaterialsUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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