Comparison of synthetic rhamnolipids as chemical precipitants for Pb, La, and Mg

Ida A. McCawley, Raina M. Maier, David E. Hogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Identifying and exploiting cost-effective and green methods of metal recovery from natural and contaminated aqueous systems is widely recognized as necessary to supplement the supply of critical elements, decrease the environmental impacts associated with hardrock mining, and remediate metal-contaminated waters. This research examines a novel approach based on rhamnolipid-facilitated chemical precipitation of metals. Three techniques were assessed to remove the rhamnolipid:metal complex from solution: mixing only, and mixing following by filtration or centrifugation. Recent advances in the ability to synthetically produce rhamnolipid surfactants allowed investigation of a variety of rhamnolipid structures. Rhamnolipids differing in the length and number of hydrophobic tails were assessed to remove Pb, La, and Mg from single metal solutions. In general, removal increased with increased rhamnolipid hydrophobicity and with the addition of an active removal step (filtration or centrifugation). Filtration removed up to 96% of all metals while centrifugation removed up to 97% for Pb and La and 60% for Mg. Results suggest tailoring the rhamnolipid structure and removal methods may enable selective metal removal to achieve specific outcomes. Future studies in mixed-metal and real-world solutions will be needed to confirm the viability of these techniques in complex systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number130801
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Apr 5 2023


  • Glycolipid
  • Metals
  • Remediation
  • Rhamnolipid
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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