Environmental science & technology

Stepwise adsorption of phenanthrene at the fly ash-water interface as affected by solution chemistry: experimental and modeling studies.

PMID 23088491


Fly ash (FA) is predominantly generated from coal-fired power plants. Contamination during disposal of FA can cause significant environmental problems. Knowledge about the interaction of FA and hydrophobic organic pollutants in the environment is very limited. This study investigated the adsorption of phenanthrene at the interface of FA and water. The performance of phenanthrene adsorption on FA and the effects of various aqueous chemistry conditions were evaluated. The adsorption isotherms exhibited an increasing trend in the adsorbed amounts of phenanthrene, while a stepwise pattern was apparent. A stepwise multisite Langmuir model was developed to simulate the stepwise adsorption process. The adsorption of phenanthrene onto FA was noted to be spontaneous at all temperatures. The thermodynamic results indicated that the adsorption was an exothermic process. The adsorption capacity gradually decreased as pH increased from 4 to 8; however, this trend became less significant when pH was changed from 8 to 10. The binding affinity of phenanthrene to FA increased after the addition of humic acid (HA). The pH variation was also responsible for the changes of phenanthrene adsorption on FA in the presence of HA. High ionic strength corresponded to low mobility of phenanthrene in the FA-water system. Results of this study can help reveal the migration patterns of organic contaminants in the FA-water system and facilitate environmental risk assessment at FA disposal sites.