Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 11, pp 10515–10528 | Cite as

The detoxification of heavy metals from aqueous environment using nano-photocatalysis approach: a review

  • Muhammad Bilal TahirEmail author
  • Habiba Kiran
  • Tahir Iqbal
Review Article


Heavy metals are discharged into aquatic environment and causes serious problems to the environment, human’s health, and other organisms. The industrial effluents contain high concentration of heavy metals that should be treated by different technologies. Numerous technologies have been widely used for the remediation of heavy metals such as chemical precipitation, ion exchange, membrane filtration, adsorption, coagulation-flocculation, floatation, electrochemical treatment, bioremediation, and photocatalysis. Among these technologies, photocatalysis has gained much attention due to chemical, physical, and electrical properties of heterogeneous semiconductor nano-photocatalysis. Bismuth vanadate is an n-type semiconductor photocatalyst having 2.4 eV band gap that was widely used from several decades having three monoclinic, tetragonal, and tetragonal zircon structures, but it also have some limitation that can be overcome by modification with metals or non-metals to gain high removal efficiency of heavy metals. This modification can tune its photocatalytic properties like band gap, absorption capacity, and surface area resulting in high photocatalytic performance towards heavy metals detoxification.


Heavy metals’ remediation Treatment technologies Photocatalysis Nanomaterials 



  1. Acheampong MA, Meulepas RJ, Lens PN (2010) Removal of heavy metals and cyanide from gold mine wastewater. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 85(5):590–613Google Scholar
  2. Aderhold D, Williams C, Edyvean R (1996) The removal of heavy-metal ions by seaweeds and their derivatives. Bioresour Technol 58(1):1–6Google Scholar
  3. Ahmaruzzaman M (2011) Industrial wastes as low-cost potential adsorbents for the treatment of wastewater laden with heavy metals. Adv Colloid Interf Sci 166(1–2):36–59Google Scholar
  4. Ahmed MJK, Ahmaruzzaman M (2016) A review on potential usage of industrial waste materials for binding heavy metal ions from aqueous solutions. Journal of Water Process Engineering 10:39–47Google Scholar
  5. Akbal F, Camcı S (2011) Copper, chromium and nickel removal from metal plating wastewater by electrocoagulation. Desalination 269(1–3):214–222Google Scholar
  6. Akhtar T, Zia-ur-Rehman M, Naeem A, Nawaz R, Ali S, Murtaza G, Maqsood MA, Azhar M, Khalid H, Rizwan M (2017) Photosynthesis and growth response of maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids exposed to cadmium stress. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24(6):5521–5529Google Scholar
  7. Almeida CC d, Costa PRF d, Melo MJ d M, Santos EV d, Martínez-Huitle CA (2014) Application of electrochemical technology for water treatment of Brazilian industry effluents. J Mex Chem Soc 58(3):276–286Google Scholar
  8. Arney, D. H. (2011) Flux synthesis of photocatalytic transition metal oxides: North Carolina State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  9. Bai Y, Bartkiewicz B (2009) Removal of cadmium from wastewater using ion exchange resin Amberjet 1200H columns. Pol J Environ Stud 18(6)Google Scholar
  10. Barakat M, Schmidt E (2010) Polymer-enhanced ultrafiltration process for heavy metals removal from industrial wastewater. Desalination 256(1–3):90–93Google Scholar
  11. Bell L, DiGangi J, Weinberg J (2014) An NGO introduction to mercury pollution and the Minamata convention on mercury. IPEN, Chicago, p 11Google Scholar
  12. Benatti CT, Tavares CRG, Lenzi E (2009) Sulfate removal from waste chemicals by precipitation. J Environ Manag 90(1):504–511Google Scholar
  13. Bilal M, Shah JA, Ashfaq T, Gardazi SMH, Tahir AA, Pervez A, Haroon H, Mahmood Q (2013) Waste biomass adsorbents for copper removal from industrial wastewater—a review. J Hazard Mater 263:322–333Google Scholar
  14. Boamah PO, Huang Y, Hua M, Zhang Q, Wu J, Onumah J, Sam-Amoah LK, Boamah PO (2015) Sorption of heavy metal ions onto carboxylate chitosan derivatives—a mini-review. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 116:113–120Google Scholar
  15. Boparai HK, Joseph M, O’Carroll DM (2011) Kinetics and thermodynamics of cadmium ion removal by adsorption onto nanozerovalent iron particles. J Hazard Mater 186(1):458–465Google Scholar
  16. Callender E (2003) Heavy metals in the environment-historical trends. Treatise on geochemistry 9:612Google Scholar
  17. Chen D, Ray AK (2001) Removal of toxic metal ions from wastewater by semiconductor photocatalysis. Chem Eng Sci 56(4):1561–1570Google Scholar
  18. Chen D, Sivakumar M, Ray AK (2000) Heterogeneous photocatalysis in environmental remediation. Dev Chem Eng Miner Process 8(5–6):505–550Google Scholar
  19. Coman V, Robotin B, Ilea P (2013) Nickel recovery/removal from industrial wastes: a review. Resour Conserv Recycl 73:229–238Google Scholar
  20. Crini G (2005) Recent developments in polysaccharide-based materials used as adsorbents in wastewater treatment. Prog Polym Sci 30(1):38–70Google Scholar
  21. Darwent JR, Mills A (1982) Photo-oxidation of water sensitized by WO 3 powder. J Chem Soc Faraday Trans 2 78(2):359–367Google Scholar
  22. Das J, Sarkar A, Sil PC (2015) Hexavalent chromium induces apoptosis in human liver (HepG2) cells via redox imbalance. Toxicol Rep 2:600–608Google Scholar
  23. De Almeida DG, Soares Da Silva R d CF, Luna JM, Rufino RD, Santos VA, Banat IM et al (2016) Biosurfactants: promising molecules for petroleum biotechnology advances. Front Microbiol 7:1718Google Scholar
  24. Duffus JH (2002) Heavy metals a meaningless term. Pure Appl Chem 74(5):793–807Google Scholar
  25. Ellis BL, Knauth P, Djenizian T (2014) Three-dimensional self-supported metal oxides for advanced energy storage. Adv Mater 26(21):3368–3397Google Scholar
  26. Fu F, Wang Q (2011) Removal of heavy metal ions from wastewaters: a review. J Environ Manag 92(3):407–418Google Scholar
  27. Fujishima A, Honda K (1972) Electrochemical photolysis of water at a semiconductor electrode. nature 238(5358):37–38Google Scholar
  28. Gautam RK, Sharma SK, Mahiya S, Chattopadhyaya MC (2014) Contamination of heavy metals in aquatic media: transport, toxicity and technologies for remediation. Heavy metals in water: Presence, removal and safety:1–24Google Scholar
  29. Ghernaout D, Al-Ghonamy AI, Boucherit A, Ghernaout B, Naceur MW, Messaoudene NA et al (2015) Brownian motion and coagulation process. Am J Environ Prot 4:1–15Google Scholar
  30. Glaze, W. H., Kang, J.-W., & Chapin, D. H. (1987) The chemistry of water treatment processes involving ozone, hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet radiationGoogle Scholar
  31. González P, Pliego-Cuervo Y (2014) Adsorption of Cd (II), Hg (II) and Zn (II) from aqueous solution using mesoporous activated carbon produced from Bambusa vulgaris striata. Chem Eng Res Des 92(11):2715–2724Google Scholar
  32. Guieysse B, Norvill ZN (2014) Sequential chemical–biological processes for the treatment of industrial wastewaters: review of recent progresses and critical assessment. J Hazard Mater 267:142–152Google Scholar
  33. Gupta VK, Rastogi A, Nayak A (2010) Biosorption of nickel onto treated alga (Oedogonium hatei): application of isotherm and kinetic models. J Colloid Interface Sci 342(2):533–539Google Scholar
  34. Hamadi NK, Chen XD, Farid MM, Lu MG (2001) Adsorption kinetics for the removal of chromium (VI) from aqueous solution by adsorbents derived from used tyres and sawdust. Chem Eng J 84(2):95–105Google Scholar
  35. Hashim MA, Mukhopadhyay S, Sahu JN, Sengupta B (2011) Remediation technologies for heavy metal contaminated groundwater. J Environ Manag 92(10):2355–2388Google Scholar
  36. Hoseinian FS, Irannajad M, Nooshabadi AJ (2015) Ion flotation for removal of Ni (II) and Zn (II) ions from wastewaters. Int J Miner Process 143:131–137Google Scholar
  37. Hubicki, Z. & Kołodyńska, D. (2012) Selective removal of heavy metal ions from waters and waste waters using ion exchange methods Ion Exchange Technologies: InTechGoogle Scholar
  38. Hussain A, Ali S, Rizwan M, ur Rehman MZ, Javed MR, Imran M et al (2018) Zinc oxide nanoparticles alter the wheat physiological response and reduce the cadmium uptake by plants. Environ Pollut 242:1518–1526Google Scholar
  39. Ibhadon AO, Fitzpatrick P (2013) Heterogeneous photocatalysis: recent advances and applications. Catalysts 3(1):189–218Google Scholar
  40. Kanold JM, Wang J, Brümmer F, Šiller L (2016) Metallic nickel nanoparticles and their effect on the embryonic development of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. Environ Pollut 212:224–229Google Scholar
  41. Karhu M, Leiviskä T, Tanskanen J (2014) Enhanced DAF in breaking up oil-in-water emulsions. Sep Purif Technol 122:231–241Google Scholar
  42. Kikuchi T, Tanaka S (2012) Biological removal and recovery of toxic heavy metals in water environment. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 42(10):1007–1057Google Scholar
  43. Kirman C, Hays S, Aylward L, Suh M, Harris M, Thompson C et al (2012) Physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for rats and mice orally exposed to chromium. Chem Biol Interact 200(1):45–64Google Scholar
  44. Kolesnikov A, Kuznetsov V, Kolesnikov V, Kapustin YI (2015) The role of surfactants in the electroflotation extraction of copper, nickel, and zinc hydroxides and phosphates. Theor Found Chem Eng 49(1):1–9Google Scholar
  45. Kosolapov D, Kuschk P, Vainshtein M, Vatsourina A, Wiessner A, Kästner M et al (2004) Microbial processes of heavy metal removal from carbon-deficient effluents in constructed wetlands. Eng Life Sci 4(5):403–411Google Scholar
  46. Kuan Y-C, Lee I-H, Chern J-M (2010) Heavy metal extraction from PCB wastewater treatment sludge by sulfuric acid. J Hazard Mater 177(1–3):881–886Google Scholar
  47. Kumar PS, Ramakrishnan K, Gayathri R (2010) Removal of nickel (II) from aqueous solutions by ceralite IR 120 cationic exchange resins. J Eng Sci Technol 5(2):232–243Google Scholar
  48. Lee CM, Palaniandy P, Dahlan I (2017) Pharmaceutical residues in aquatic environment and water remediation by TiO2 heterogeneous photocatalysis: a review. Environ Earth Sci 76(17):611Google Scholar
  49. Lesmana SO, Febriana N, Soetaredjo FE, Sunarso J, Ismadji S (2009) Studies on potential applications of biomass for the separation of heavy metals from water and wastewater. Biochem Eng J 44(1):19–41Google Scholar
  50. Letterman, R. D. & Association, A. W. W (1999) Water quality and treatment: McGraw-HillGoogle Scholar
  51. Lewis AE (2010) Review of metal sulphide precipitation. Hydrometallurgy 104(2):222–234Google Scholar
  52. Li J, Zhang C, Lin J, Yin J, Xu J, Chen Y (2018) Evaluating the bioavailability of heavy metals in natural-zeolite-amended aquatic sediments using thin-film diffusive gradients. Aquaculture and fisheries 3(3):122–128Google Scholar
  53. Lo W, Chua H, Lam K-H, Bi S-P (1999) A comparative investigation on the biosorption of lead by filamentous fungal biomass. Chemosphere 39(15):2723–2736Google Scholar
  54. Loukidou MX, Matis KA, Zouboulis AI, Liakopoulou-Kyriakidou M (2003) Removal of As (V) from wastewaters by chemically modified fungal biomass. Water Res 37(18):4544–4552Google Scholar
  55. Lowry GV, Johnson KM (2004) Congener-specific dechlorination of dissolved PCBs by microscale and nanoscale zerovalent iron in a water/methanol solution. Environ Sci Technol 38(19):5208–5216Google Scholar
  56. Madaeni S, Mansourpanah Y (2003) COD removal from concentrated wastewater using membranes. Filtr Sep 40(6):40–46Google Scholar
  57. Mahajan G, Sud D (2013) Application of ligno-cellulosic waste material for heavy metal ions removal from aqueous solution. J Environ Chem Eng 1(4):1020–1027Google Scholar
  58. Mahmoud MR, Lazaridis NK, Matis KA (2015) Study of flotation conditions for cadmium (II) removal from aqueous solutions. Process Saf Environ Prot 94:203–211Google Scholar
  59. Majumder S, Gangadhar G, Raghuvanshi S, Gupta S (2015) Biofilter column for removal of divalent copper from aqueous solutions: performance evaluation and kinetic modeling. J of Water Process Eng 6:136–143Google Scholar
  60. Majumder, S., Gupta, S., & Raghuvanshi, S. (2014) Removal of dissolved metals by bioremediation. Heavy Metals in Water: Presence, Removal and Safety, 44–56Google Scholar
  61. Malik A (2004) Metal bioremediation through growing cells. Environ Int 30(2):261–278Google Scholar
  62. Mangun CL, Yue Z, Economy J, Maloney S, Kemme P, Cropek D (2001) Adsorption of organic contaminants from water using tailored ACFs. Chem Mater 13(7):2356–2360Google Scholar
  63. Moghadasali R, Mutsaers HA, Azarnia M, Aghdami N, Baharvand H, Torensma R et al (2013) Mesenchymal stem cell-conditioned medium accelerates regeneration of human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells after gentamicin toxicity. Exp Toxicol Pathol 65(5):595–600Google Scholar
  64. Mori K, Yamashita H (2010) Progress in design and architecture of metal nanoparticles for catalytic applications. Phys Chem Chem Phys 12(43):14420–14432Google Scholar
  65. Mutamim NSA, Noor ZZ, Hassan MAA, Olsson G (2012) Application of membrane bioreactor technology in treating high strength industrial wastewater: a performance review. Desalination 305:1–11Google Scholar
  66. Nalbandian, M. J.-C. (2014) Development and optimization of chemically-active electrospun nanofibers for treatment of impaired water sources. UC RiversideGoogle Scholar
  67. O’Connell DW, Birkinshaw C, O’Dwyer TF (2008) Heavy metal adsorbents prepared from the modification of cellulose: a review. Bioresour Technol 99(15):6709–6724Google Scholar
  68. Pan L, Muhammad T, Ma L, Huang Z-F, Wang S, Wang L, Zou JJ, Zhang X (2016) MOF-derived C-doped ZnO prepared via a two-step calcination for efficient photocatalysis. Appl Catal B Environ 189:181–191Google Scholar
  69. Patil DS, Chavan SM, Oubagaranadin JUK (2016) A review of technologies for manganese removal from wastewaters. J Environ Chem Eng 4(1):468–487Google Scholar
  70. Praspaliauskas M, Pedisius N, Gradeckas A (2018) Accumulation of heavy metals in stemwood of forest tree plantations fertilized with different sewage sludge doses. J For Res 29(2):347–361Google Scholar
  71. Qin J-J, Wai M-N, Oo M-H, Wong F-S (2002) A feasibility study on the treatment and recycling of a wastewater from metal plating. J Membr Sci 208(1–2):213–221Google Scholar
  72. Qu Y, Duan X (2013) Progress, challenge and perspective of heterogeneous photocatalysts. Chem Soc Rev 42(7):2568–2580Google Scholar
  73. Rai M, Yadav A, Gade A (2009) Silver nanoparticles as a new generation of antimicrobials. Biotechnol Adv 27(1):76–83Google Scholar
  74. Rashed IGA-A, Afify HA, Ahmed AE-M, Ayoub MAE-S (2013) Optimization of chemical precipitation to improve the primary treatment of wastewater. Desalin Water Treat 51(37–39):7048–7056Google Scholar
  75. Renault F, Sancey B, Badot P-M, Crini G (2009) Chitosan for coagulation/flocculation processes–an eco-friendly approach. Eur Polym J 45(5):1337–1348Google Scholar
  76. Rengaraj S, Joo CK, Kim Y, Yi J (2003) Kinetics of removal of chromium from water and electronic process wastewater by ion exchange resins: 1200H, 1500H and IRN97H. J Hazard Mater 102(2–3):257–275Google Scholar
  77. Rizwan M, Ali S, Qayyum MF, Ok YS, Adrees M, Ibrahim M, Zia-ur-Rehman M, Farid M, Abbas F (2017a) Effect of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles on growth and physiology of globally important food crops: a critical review. J Hazard Mater 322:2–16Google Scholar
  78. Rizwan M, Ali S, Qayyum MF, Ok YS, Zia-ur-Rehman M, Abbas Z, Hannan F (2017b) Use of Maize (Zea mays L.) for phytomanagement of Cd-contaminated soils: a critical review. Environ Geochem Health 39(2):259–277Google Scholar
  79. Rizwan M, Ali S, ur Rehman MZ, Rinklebe J, Tsang DC, Bashir A et al (2018) Cadmium phytoremediation potential of Brassica crop species: a review. Sci Total Environ 631:1175–1191Google Scholar
  80. Rubio J, Souza M, Smith R (2002) Overview of flotation as a wastewater treatment technique. Miner Eng 15(3):139–155Google Scholar
  81. Salmani MH, Davoodi M, Ehrampoush MH, Ghaneian MT, Fallahzadah MH (2013) Removal of cadmium (II) from simulated wastewater by ion flotation technique. Iranian J Environ Health Sci Eng 10(1):16Google Scholar
  82. Sardar K, Walton RI (2012) Hydrothermal synthesis map of bismuth titanates. J Solid State Chem 189:32–37Google Scholar
  83. Schwarz JA, Contescu C, Contescu A (1995) Methods for preparation of catalytic materials. Chem Rev 95(3):477–510Google Scholar
  84. Shan G, Surampalli RY, Tyagi RD, Zhang TC (2009) Nanomaterials for environmental burden reduction, waste treatment, and nonpoint source pollution control: a review. Front Environ Sci Eng China 3(3):249–264Google Scholar
  85. Shen Z, Xie S, Fan W, Zhang Q, Xie Z, Yang W, Wang Y, Lin J, Wu X, Wan H, Wang Y (2016) Direct conversion of formaldehyde to ethylene glycol via photocatalytic carbon–carbon coupling over bismuth vanadate. Cat Sci Technol 6(17):6485–6489Google Scholar
  86. Singh S, Rai B, Rai L (2001) Ni (II) and Cr (VI) sorption kinetics by Microcystis in single and multimetallic system. Process Biochem 36(12):1205–1213Google Scholar
  87. Trellu C, Mousset E, Pechaud Y, Huguenot D, Van Hullebusch ED, Esposito G et al (2016) Removal of hydrophobic organic pollutants from soil washing/flushing solutions: a critical review. J Hazard Mater 306:149–174Google Scholar
  88. Xu J, Cao Z, Zhang Y, Yuan Z, Lou Z, Xu X, Wang X (2018) A review of functionalized carbon nanotubes and graphene for heavy metal adsorption from water: preparation, application, and mechanism. Chemosphere 195:351–364Google Scholar
  89. Xu P, Zeng GM, Huang DL, Feng CL, Hu S, Zhao MH, Lai C, Wei Z, Huang C, Xie GX, Liu ZF (2012) Use of iron oxide nanomaterials in wastewater treatment: a review. Sci Total Environ 424:1–10Google Scholar
  90. Xu Y-H, Liu C-J, Chen M-J, Liu Y-Q (2011) A review in visible-light-driven BiVO 4 photocatalysts. International Journal of Nanoparticles 4(2–3):268–283Google Scholar
  91. Yan X-G, Xu L, Huang W-Q, Huang G-F, Yang Z-M, Zhan S-Q, Long JP (2014) Theoretical insight into the electronic and photocatalytic properties of Cu2O from a hybrid density functional theory. Mater Sci Semicond Process 23:34–41Google Scholar
  92. Yuan G (2004) Natural and modified nanomaterials as sorbents of environmental contaminants. J Environ Sci Health A 39(10):2661–2670Google Scholar
  93. Zhang C, Jiang Y, Li Y, Hu Z, Zhou L, Zhou M (2013) Three-dimensional electrochemical process for wastewater treatment: a general review. Chem Eng J 228:455–467Google Scholar
  94. Zhang X, Zhang Y, Quan X, Chen S (2009) Preparation of Ag doped BiVO4 film and its enhanced photoelectrocatalytic (PEC) ability of phenol degradation under visible light. J Hazard Mater 167(1–3):911–914Google Scholar
  95. Zhao Z, Li Z, Zou Z (2011) Electronic structure and optical properties of monoclinic clinobisvanite BiVO 4. Phys Chem Chem Phys 13(10):4746–4753Google Scholar
  96. Zhou JZ, Wu YY, Liu C, Orpe A, Liu Q, Xu ZP, Qian GR, Qiao SZ (2010) Effective self-purification of polynary metal electroplating wastewaters through formation of layered double hydroxides. Environ Sci Technol 44(23):8884–8890Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of GujratGujratPakistan

Personalised recommendations