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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Jan 1;41(1):153-9.

Variation in phenanthrene sorption coefficients with soil organic matter fractionation: the result of structure or conformation?

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Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto, Scarborough College, Toronto, Ontario MIC 1A4, Canada.


Sorption of phenanthrene to varying soil types was investigated to better understand sorption processes. Humic acid and humin fractions were isolated from each soil sample, and sorption coefficients were measured by batch equilibration. Samples were characterized by carbon analysis and 13C cross polarization magic angle spinning (CP/ MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Measured organic carbon-normalized sorption coefficients (Koc) of the fractions were greater in all cases when compared to the soils. The humin fractions exhibited greater Koc values than did source samples, suggesting that fractionation may reorganize organic matter in humin resulting in an increased availability of and/or more favorable sorption domains. Mass balance calculations revealed that the sum of sorption to the fractions is greater than sorption to the whole sample. The greatest difference between sorption values was found to occur with the mineral soils, suggesting that clay minerals influence the physical conformation of soil organic matter (SOM) and availability of sorption domains. The mass balance, sorption data, and a lack of consistent trends between observed Kco values and solid-state 13C NMR data suggest that the physical conformation of SOM and chemical characteristics both play important roles in sorption processes.

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