We have developed a concise tool for the investigation of the transition of humic substances in environmental water. The separation of water-soluble humic substances was achieved rapidly and effectively by capillary electrophoresis using a polyacrylamide-coated capillary and a phosphate electrophoretic buffer solution (pH 7.0) containing hydroxyethyl cellulose. The separation mechanism was assessed using the ultrafiltration technique. The effect of the complexation of humic substances with metal ions was studied by using the proposed method. When Fe(III) ions or EDTA was added to the sample solution of fulvic acid, a distinct change in the electropherogram pattern based on the conformational change of fulvic acid was observed. The successful application of the proposed method to the characterization of humic substances in a river water sample was also demonstrated.
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