The increasing industrial development of recent decades has lead to the production of increasing quantities of waste containing heavy metals, elements often harmful to the environment, which in the past were not properly disposed of, thus inducing soil and groundwater pollution.
In particular, chromium (Cr) and its derivatives are largely used in industries such as textiles, electronics, metallurgy, tanneries. Consequently, large quantities of this element were released into the environment due to leakage or incorrect disposal.
Chromium is a transition element present in nature in three stable forms: metallic Cr, trivalent Cr(III) and hexavalent Cr(VI). Metallic Chromium is rarely found in nature, mainly as natural chrome metallic inclusions in diamonds, fragments of as meteorites and metal alloys in fluvial deposits. The trivalent form is characterized by a relatively low toxicity, while the hexavalent chromium present in different compounds of industrial origin, is considered highly toxic towards the respiratory system and carcinogenic.
In the present work, lab experiments of Cr(VI) contaminated soil clean-up by chemical reduction with nanoparticles of zero valent iron (nZVI) are presented and discussed. The aim of the work was to optimize the main operative parameters of the reduction process (pH, nZVI concentration, liquid/solid ratio). Cr(VI) reduction using nZVI was found to obey a pseudo-first-order kinetic: the kinetic constant depended upon the nZVI: Cr(VI) ratio. The use of nZVI in combination with sodium dithionite was also studied, by performing tests in batch conditions at pH = 1.3, in order to assess the optimal ratio between nZVI and Cr(VI), and between dithionite and Cr(VI). The results obtained showed an increase of Cr(VI) reduction rate with respect to the tests carried only with nZVI: for long treatment times, up to 24 hours, an almost total removal of Cr(VI) was achieved when a large excess of reagents was used.