Enhanced diffusion of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in artificial and natural aqueous solutions

Philipp Mayer, M.M. Fernqvist, P.S. Christensen, U. Karlson, Stefan Trapp

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Uptake of hydrophobic organic compounds into organisms is often limited by the diffusive transport through a thin boundary layer. Therefore, a microscale diffusion technique was applied to determine the diffusive mass transfer of 12 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons through water, air, surfactant solutions, humic acid solutions, aqueous soil and horse manure extracts, digestive fluid of a deposit-feeding worm, and root exudates from willow plants. In most cases the diffusive mass transfer of PAHs was much higher through the tested media than through water, and the enhancement factors increased with increasing hydrophobicity of the PAHs. The diffusive flux of benzo[a]pyrene was for instance enhanced 74 times through gut fluid of a deposit-feeding worm when compared to water. These findings demonstrate that a wide variety of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) at environmental levels can enhance diffusive mass transfer in various transport scenarios. The diffusive uptake of PAHs into sediment dwelling organisms is particularly efficient within the gut and at direct contract with the sediment matrix. Bioremediation might be enhanced by the addition of auxiliary agents that enhance diffusive mass transfer. Enhanced diffusion needs also to be considered in dynamic transport models and for the operation and calibration of passive sampling techniques.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology (Washington)
Pages (from-to)6148-6155
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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