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ISSN electronic edition: 1336-9075
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Conformational changes in humic acids in aqueous solutions

Martina Klučáková, Andrea Kargerová, and Kristýna Nováčková

Centre for Materials Research, Faculty of Chemistry, Brno University of Technology, Purkyňova 464/118, 612 00 Brno, Czech Republic



Abstract: Conformational changes in humic acids in two different aqueous solutions (NaCl and NaOH) are studied by means of high resolution ultrasound spectrometry. The method is based on the measurement of parameters of ultrasonic waves propagating through the sample. The attenuation describes the decay of the amplitude of the ultrasonic wave with the distance travelled. The velocity is the speed of this wave and is related to the wavelength and the frequency of oscillation of the deformation. It is determined by the density and elasticity of the sample, which is strongly influenced by the molecular arrangement. The minimal velocity of ultrasound was observed at 1 g dm−3 for lignitic humic acids and at 0.5 g dm−3 for IHSS Leonardite standard. The values of compressibility as computed are almost constant up to humic acids’ content corresponding to the minimum velocity of ultrasound and then decrease with the increase in concentration. This shows that the organisation of particles in diluted and concentrated humic acids sols is different. The decrease in compressibility points to the formation of a more rigid structure, which could lead to the decrease in humic acids’ binding ability. It was confirmed that the method employed was very sensitive and could be utilised as an indicator of conformational changes in humic acids in solutions with varying concentrations.

Keywords: humic acids – conformation – molecular organisation – ultrasound spectrometry – compressibility

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.2478/s11696-012-0199-2


Chemical Papers 66 (9) 875–880 (2012)

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