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Boron Binding by Natural Organic Matter: the Basis for Remediation of Boron Rich Waters and Soils (BOR-GIF)

Boron Binding by Natural Organic Matter: the Basis for Remediation of Boron Rich Waters and Soils (BOR-GIF)

Fritz H. Frimmel,
Gudrun Abbt-Braun

Projektgruppe:Verbundprojekt BOR


2005 - 2008


Boron binding by natural organic matter: the basis for remediation of boron rich waters and soils

Boron (B) introduced into the wastewater via domestic and industrial water, is one of the major factors limiting its use in agriculture. Boron is an essential micronutrient for normal plant growth, but its positive influence is achieved only within a narrow range of concentrations in the soil solution. If B is not sufficiently removed from wastewater during the common treatment methods, it may become toxic. Therefore B has become an element of major concern in desalination facilities, and since desalination projects in arid lands also aim to reuse the wastewater in agriculture, it becomes the key limiting factor in such operations. In order to effect B removal/immobilization at the very spot of water processing, effective and low-cost organic sorbents have to be developed. Small micro filtration (MF), ultra filtration (UF) and Ro systems, which have otherwise become an attractive option to farmers or farming communities to process saline or wastewater, do not satisfactory remove boron. Boron is one of the major obstacles in the use of these waters and therefore its removal is of great practical importance. Materials, derived from natural organic matter (NOM), which is an abundant and cheap resource, show strong boron binding and therefore exhibit great potential to act as boron sorbents.

In the proposed study, the binding of boron an natural organic matter will be investigated using column and batch studies to determine boron removal efficiency, and with molecular level chemical characterization to understand the mechanism of boron binding to NOM. Different organic matter (OM), such as in wastewater an sewage sludge, composts of bio solids and manure; cellulose derived materials and related low cost sorbents will be tested and compared to existing B-binding resins with respect to their binding affinity to B. These studies will provide an in-depth mechanistic understanding of the boron interaction to different OM materials. Efficient boron removing OM materials, which will be developed on the basis of this knowledge, can be used to upgrade wastewater or saline water reclamation plants with respect to their ability to remove boron efficiently. The consortium of the project is very complementary and involves specialists from agriculture, water research, analytical chemistry and modelling and covers all requirements in know-how, instrumentation and modelling capacity.

Foundation: the German Israeli foundation for Scientific Research and Development (G.I.F.)


  • PD. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin (Coordinator), Dr. N. Hertkorn, GSF- Institute of Ecological Chemistry, Neuherberg, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Yona Chen (Coordinator), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Prof. R. Keren, Dr. G. Communar ARO, Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel