Environmental science & technology, 07 November 2017, Vol.51(21), pp.12254-12263
In aqueous environments, hydrophobic organic contaminants are often associated with particles. Besides natural particles, microplastics have raised public concern. The release of pollutants from such particles depends on mass transfer, either in an aqueous boundary layer or by intraparticle diffusion. Which of these mechanisms controls the mass-transfer kinetics depends on partition coefficients, particle size, boundary conditions, and time. We have developed a semianalytical model accounting for both processes and performed batch experiments on the desorption kinetics of typical wastewater pollutants (phenanthrene, tonalide, and benzophenone) at different dissolved-organic-matter concentrations, which change the overall partitioning between microplastics and water. Initially, mass transfer is externally dominated, while finally, intraparticle diffusion controls release kinetics. Under boundary conditions typical for batch experiments (finite bath), desorption accelerates with increasing partition coefficients for intraparticle diffusion, while it becomes independent of partition coefficients if film diffusion prevails. On the contrary, under field conditions (infinite bath), the pollutant release controlled by intraparticle diffusion is not affected by partitioning of the compound while external mass transfer slows down with increasing sorption. Our results clearly demonstrate that sorption/desorption time scales observed in batch experiments may not be transferred to field conditions without an appropriate model accounting for both the mass-transfer mechanisms and the specific boundary conditions at hand.
Plastics ; Waste Water ; Water Pollutants, Chemical
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