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A rotating disk apparatus for assessing the biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons transferring from a non-aqueous phase liquid to solutions of surfactant Brij 35


A rotating disk apparatus was used to investigate the biodegradation of PAHs from non-aqueous phase liquids to solutions of Brij 35. The mass transfer of PAHs in absence of surfactant solution was not large enough to replenish the degraded PAHs. The addition of surfactant resulted in an overall enhancement of biodegradation rates compared to that observed in pure aqueous solution. This is because surfactant partition significant amount of PAHs into the bulk phase, where uptake occurs but the supply of PAHs to the aqueous phase through micellar solubilization at latter period limited biodegradation rates. It was demonstrated the relationship between biodegradation rate and surfactant dose and the mechanisms controlling the mass transfer of PAH from NAPLs. The satisfactory comparison of the experimental data with the predictions of a model, which parameters were determined from independent solubilization and dissolution experiments and based on the main assumption that the solutes must be present in the true aqueous phase to be degraded, allows us to conclude the absence of direct uptake of PAHs by bacteria.

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Funding for this research was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, National Council of Science and Technology (CNPq, Brazil) and Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies (FQNRT). The author also thanks Professor Stephan Grimberg of Clarkson University for providing the strain and Professor Subhasis Ghoshal of McGill University for his valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Letícia A. Bernardez.

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Bernardez, L.A. A rotating disk apparatus for assessing the biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons transferring from a non-aqueous phase liquid to solutions of surfactant Brij 35. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 32, 415–424 (2009).

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  • Dissolution
  • Biodegradation
  • PAHs
  • Surfactant
  • Rotating disk