Adsorption of PFOA at the Air-Water Interface during Transport in Unsaturated Porous Media

Ying Lyu, Mark L. Brusseau, Wei Chen, Ni Yan, Xiaori Fu, Xueyu Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Miscible-displacement experiments are conducted with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to determine the contribution of adsorption at the air-water interface to retention during transport in water-unsaturated porous media. Column experiments were conducted with two sands of different diameter at different PFOA input concentrations, water saturations, and pore-water velocities to evaluate the impact of system variables on retardation. The breakthrough curves for unsaturated conditions exhibited greater retardation than those obtained for saturated conditions, demonstrating the significant impact of air-water interfacial adsorption on PFOA retention. Retardation was greater for lower water saturations and smaller grain diameter, consistent with the impact of system conditions on the magnitude of air-water interfacial area in porous media. Retardation was greater for lower input concentrations of PFOA for a given water saturation, consistent with the nonlinear nature of surfactant fluid-fluid interfacial adsorption. Retardation factors predicted using independently determined parameter values compared very well to the measured values. The results showed that adsorption at the air-water interface is a significant source of retention for PFOA, contributing approximately 50-75% of total retention, for the test systems. The significant magnitude of air-water interfacial adsorption measured in this work has ramifications for accurate determination of PFAS migration potential in vadose zones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7745-7753
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 17 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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