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Sorption of cationic organic substances onto synthetic oxides: Evaluation of sorbent parameters as possible predictors

Kutzner, Susann, Schaffer, Mario, Licha, Tobias, Worch, Eckhard, Börnick, Hilmar
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.643 pp. 632-639
aluminum oxide, cations, chemical structure, ion exchange, models, organic matter, prediction, risk assessment, silica gel, sodium chloride, sorbents, sorption
Knowledge on the sorption behavior of cationic organic substances in aquatic systems is vital for their risk assessment due to the increasing detection of such chemicals in the hydrosphere. Their sorption behavior is strongly influenced by sorption processes onto mineral surfaces (e.g., oxides, clays). To contribute to the development of prediction tools, the impact of sorbent characteristics on the sorption strength was studied in a highly-idealized model system. In addition to the properties of the solid phase, the concentration of other ions in direct competition for sorption sites and the molecular structure of the sorbate were changed to separate ion exchange and non-ion exchange processes. The study includes in total 120 systematic column experiments using five extensively characterized synthetic oxides (three silica gels, two aluminum oxides), three probe molecules (two structurally related cationic substances, one neutral compound), and four distinctively different NaCl concentrations. The results show that the concentration of OH groups on the sorbent surface is a meaningful descriptor for the observed variations in sorption capacity onto different oxides. Compound-specific linear correlations were obtained, enabling the prediction of sorption coefficients. In addition, a more complex sorption behavior of organic cations compared to uncharged molecules were observed as demonstrated by the sorption results at different electrolyte concentrations. Thus, the study provides an important step towards a better principal mechanistic understanding of organic cation sorption. However, further work using other sorbents including natural ones and other probe molecules is needed to verify the identified relationships within the scope of developing reliable prediction models for cation sorption.