A multi-step procedure, based on the employment of K10-Montmorillonite, is proposed for the selective removal of metal ions and dyes from a multicomponent solution. The objective is twofold: decontaminate the effluents and separate and recover the valuable byproducts present in wastewaters. Three common contaminants, i.e., crystal violet dye (CV), Ce(III) and Pb(II) were chosen as “model” pollutants. The main factors affecting the pollutants’ sorption were investigated. The experimental data were correlated with adsorption isotherms and kinetic models to obtain a deeper insight into the adsorption processes. The affinity of the clay toward the pollutants is favored by an increasing pH and follows the order CV > Pb(II) > Ce(III). Whereas Ce(III) metal ions do not adsorb onto clay under strongly acidic conditions, both Pb(II) and CV can adsorb under all the investigated pH conditions. The analysis of isotherms and kinetic profiles revealed that CV adsorbs onto clay through a mechanism consisting of two parallel processes, namely cation exchange on the external mineral surface and in the interlayer and surface complexation at the edge sites, while metal ion uptake is due solely to cation exchange processes involving mineral surfaces. The time required for the complete removal of pollutants follows the order CV > Ce(III) >> Pb(II). The possibility to modulate the adsorption features by changing experimental conditions was successfully employed to propose the best strategy for the progressive removal of different components from aqueous solutions.
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