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Environmental remediation requires ion-selective polymers that operate under a wide range of solution conditions. In one example, removal of trivalent and divalent metal ions from waste streams resulting from mining operations before they enter the environment requires treatment at acidic pH. The monoethyl ester phosphate ligands developed in this report operate from acidic solutions. They have been prepared on polystyrene-bound ethylene glycol, glycerol, and pentaerythritol, and it is found that intraligand hydrogen bonding affects their metal ion affinities. The affinity for a set of trivalent (Fe(III), Al(III), La(III), and Lu(III)) and divalent (Pb(II), Cd(II), Cu(II), and Zn(II)) ions is greater than that of corresponding neutral diethyl esters and phosphonic acid. In an earlier study, hydrogen bonding was found important in determining the metal ion affinities of immobilized phosphorylated polyol diethyl ester coordinating ligands; their Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) band shifts indicated that the basicity of the phosphoryl oxygen increased by hydrogen bonding to auxiliary –OH groups on the neighboring polyol. The same mechanism is operative with the monoprotic resins along with hydrogen bonding to the P–OH acid site. This is reflected in the FTIR spectra: the neutral phosphate diethyl ester resins have the P=O band at 1265 cm-1 while the monoethyl ester resins have the band shifted to 1230 cm-1; hydrogen bonding is further indicated by the broadness of this region down to 900 cm-1. The monoprotic pentaerythritol has the highest metal ion affinities of the polymers studied.


This article originally appeared in PLOS|One, available at

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