The apparent acid dissociation constant of humic substances increases by 2-4 pK units as ionization of the humic carboxylate groups proceeds. This change in apparent acid strength is due in part to the increase in electrical charge on the humic molecules as protons are shed. In addition, proton dissociation reactions are complicated because humic substances are heterogeneous with respect to proton dissociating groups and molecular size. In this paper, we use the Debye-Hu??ckel theory to describe the effects of electrostatic interactions on proton dissociation of humic substances. Simulations show that, for a size-heterogeneous system of molecules, the weight-average molecular weight is preferable to the number-average value for averaging the effects of electrostatic interactions. Analysis of published data on the proton dissociation of fulvic acid from the Suwannee River shows that the electrostatic interactions can be satisfactorily described by a hypothetical homogeneous compound having a molecular weight of 1000 (similar to the experimentally determined weight-average value). Titration data at three ionic strengths, for several fulvic acid concentrations, and in the pH range from 2.9 to 6.4 can be fitted with three adjustable parameters (pK??int values), given information on molecular size and carboxylate group content. ?? 1990 American Chemical Society.
Additional publication details
Modeling electrostatic and heterogeneity effects on proton dissociation from humic substances