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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Sep 1;37(17):3891-6.

Investigating the role of atomic hydrogen on chloroethene reactions with iron using tafel analysis and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy.

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Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Metallic iron filings are commonly employed as reducing agents in permeable barriers used for remediating groundwater contaminated by chlorinated solvents. Reactions of trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) with zerovalent iron were investigated to determine the role of atomic hydrogen in their reductive dechlorination. Experiments simultaneously measuring dechlorination and iron corrosion rates were performed to determine the fractions of the total current going toward dechlorination and hydrogen evolution. Corrosion rates were determined using Tafel analysis, and dechlorination rates were determined from rates of byproduct generation. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) was used to determine the number of reactions that controlled the observed rates of chlorocarbon disappearance, as well as the role of atomic hydrogen in TCE and PCE reduction. Comparison of iron corrosion rates with those for TCE reaction showed that TCE reduction occurred almost exclusively via atomic hydrogen at low pH values and via atomic hydrogen and direct electron transfer at neutral pH values. In contrast, reduction of PCE occurred primarily via direct electron transfer at both low and neutral pH values. At low pH values and micromolar concentrations, TCE reaction rates were faster than those for PCE due to more rapid reduction of TCE by atomic hydrogen. At neutral pH values and millimolar concentrations, PCE reaction rates were faster than those for TCE. This shift in relative reaction rates was attributed to a decreasing contribution of the atomic hydrogen reaction mechanism with increasing halocarbon concentrations and pH values. The EIS data showed that all the rate limitations for TCE and PCE dechlorination occurred during the transfer of the first two electrons. Results from this study show that differences in relative reaction rates of TCE and PCE with iron are dependent on the significance of the reduction pathway involving atomic hydrogen.

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