Effect of synthetic surfactants on the solubilization and distribution of PAHS in water/soil-water systems

K. Y. Cheng, Jonathan W C WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The present study examined the effects of four surfactants, including three non-ionic surfactants (Tween 80, Triton X-100 and Brij 35) and an anionic surfactant SDS on the solubilization and distribution of phenanthrene (Phe) and pyrene (Pyr) in soil-water systems. All four surfactants could enhance the solubilization of Phe and Pyr in aqueous phase linearly when surfactant concentrations exceeded their respective critical micelle concentrations (CMC). Molar solublization ratio (MSR) which indicated surfactant's solubilization capacity for Phe and Pyr, was highest for Tween 80 for both PAHs, and SDS had the lowest among the four surfactants, while Triton X-100 and Brij 35 had about the same MSR for both PAHs. Moreover, all the surfactants could provide a strong micelle partitioning phase for the more hydrophobic Pyr than Phe as revealed by their high micelle - aqueous phase partition coefficient, Kmc. Batch desorption studies also demonstrated that Tween 80 had the best capacity for the desorption of both Phe and Pyr in the soil-water systems, and followed by Triton X-100 and Brij 35, while SDS seems to have no positive effect on the desorption of PAHs probably due to its relatively high CMC value. Therefore, from the application standpoint, the results obtained in this study suggest that Tween 80 would be the most suitable candidate among the four surfactants in improving solubilization and desorption of PAHs in soil-water system, which are believed to be the prerequisites for successful bioremediation technology for PAH contaminated soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-844
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Technology (United Kingdom)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal

User-Defined Keywords

  • Desorption
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Soil-water systems
  • Solubilization
  • Synthetic surfactants


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