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Environmental science & technology

Effect of applied voltage, initial concentration, and natural organic matter on sequential reduction/oxidation of nitrobenzene by graphite electrodes.


PMID 22571797

Abstract

Carbon electrodes are proposed in reactive sediment caps for in situ treatment of contaminants. The electrodes produce reducing conditions and H(2) at the cathode and oxidizing conditions and O(2) at the anode. Emplaced perpendicular to seepage flow, the electrodes provide the opportunity for sequential reduction and oxidation of contaminants. The objectives of this study are to demonstrate degradation of nitrobenzene (NB) as a probe compound for sequential electrochemical reduction and oxidation, and to determine the effect of applied voltage, initial concentration, and natural organic matter on the degradation rate. In H-cell reactors with graphite electrodes and buffer solution, NB was reduced stoichiometrically to aniline (AN) at the cathode with nitrosobenzene (NSB) as the intermediate. AN was then removed at the anode, faster than the reduction step. No common AN oxidation intermediate was detected in the system. Both the first order reduction rate constants of NB (k(NB)) and NSB (k(NSB)) increased with applied voltage between 2 V and 3.5 V (when the initial NB concentration was 100 μM, k(NB) = 0.3 h(-1) and k(NSB) = 0.04 h(-1) at 2 V; k(NB) = 1.6 h(-1) and k(NSB) = 0.64 h(-1) at 3.5 V) but stopped increasing beyond the threshold of 3.5 V. When initial NB concentration decreased from 100 to 5 μM, k(NB) and k(NSB) became 9 and 5 times faster, respectively, suggesting that competition for active sites on the electrode surface is an important factor in NB degradation. Presence of natural organic matter (in forms of either humic acid or Anacostia River sediment porewater) decreased k(NB) while slightly increased k(NSB), but only to a limited extent (∼factor of 3) for dissolved organic carbon content up to 100 mg/L. These findings suggest that electrode-based reactive sediment capping via sequential reduction/oxidation is a potentially robust and tunable technology for in situ contaminants degradation.