Solidification/stabilization of lead-contaminated soil using alkali-activated volcanic ash

Molaei, Mohammad Amin and Miraki, Hania and Morovati, Mohsen and Ghadir, Pooria and Javadi, Akbar A. (2024) Solidification/stabilization of lead-contaminated soil using alkali-activated volcanic ash. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 31 (26). pp. 38465-38484. ISSN 1614-7499 (

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The bioaccumulation of lead in soil poses a significant human health risk. The solidification/stabilization (S/S) technique, employing binders like Portland cement or lime, is a common method for remediating lead-contaminated soil. However, cement production has adverse environmental impacts, prompting the exploration of eco-friendly alternatives like alkali-activated materials (AAMs). This study assesses AAM efficacy in the S/S of lead-contaminated soil. The effects of several factors, including varying amounts of volcanic ash (VA), lead concentration, curing temperatures, and curing times are investigated. Unconfined compressive strength (UCS), toxicity characteristic leaching procedure test (TCLP), X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and field emission scanning electron microscope-energy-dispersive spectroscopy-mapping analyses (FESEM/EDS/mapping) analyses are used to study the specimens. The findings indicated a substantial increase in the UCS of lead-contaminated soil treated with 15% VA (under oven curing (OC) conditions), and 10% VA (under ambient curing (AC) conditions) exhibited remarkable increases of up to 600% and 458%, respectively. Moreover, the leaching of Pb2+ ions from samples contaminated with 10,000 mg/kg (under OC conditions) and 2500 mg/kg (under AC conditions) experienced significant reductions of 87% (from 135.14 to 13.36 ppm) and 91% (from 26.32 to 2.21 ppm), respectively. The S/S process in these samples operated through three primary mechanisms of chemical bonding, physical encapsulation, and the formation of insoluble silicate. The formation of N-A-S–H and hydroxy sodalite structures played a vital role in facilitating these mechanisms. Therefore, alkali-activated VA demonstrated excellent performance in the remediation of lead-contaminated soil. Graphical Abstract: