Influence of cation type, ionic strength, and pH on solubilization and mobilization of residual hydrocarbon by a biosurfactant

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67 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effect of cation type, ionic strength, and pH on the performance of an anionic monorhamnolipid biosurfactant for solubilization and removal of residual hexadecane from sand. Three common soil cations, Na+, Mg2+, and Ca2+, were used in these experiments and hexadecane was chosen to represent a nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) less dense than water. Results showed that hexadecane solubility in rhamnolipid solution was significantly increased by the addition of Na+ and Mg2+. Addition of up to 0.2 mM Ca2+ also increased hexadecane solubility. For Ca2+ concentrations greater than 0.2 mM there was little effect on hexadecane solubility due to competing effects of calcium-induced rhamnolipid precipitation and enhanced hexadecane solubilization. Efficiency of NAPL solubilization can be expressed in terms of molar solubilization ratios (MSR). The results showed that MSR values for hexadecane in rhamnolipid solutions increased 7.5-fold in the presence of 500 mM Na+, and 25-fold in the presence of 1 mM Mg2+. The presence of cations also reduced the interfacial tension between rhamnolipid solutions and hexadecane. For example, an increase in Na+ from 0 to 800 mM caused a decrease in interfacial tension from 2.2 to 0.89 dyn cm-1. Similarly, decreasing pH caused a reduction in interfacial tension. The lowest interfacial tension value observed in this study was 0.02 dyn cm-1 at pH 6 in the presence of 320 mM Na+. These conditions were also found to be optimal for removal of hexadecane residual from sand columns, with 58% of residual removed within three pore volumes. The removal of residual NAPL from the packed columns was primarily by mobilization, even though solubilization was significantly increased in the presence of Na+.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-279
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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