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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Bioremediation and Biodegradation

Effect of Surfactants on Solubilization and Degradation of Phenanthrene under Thermophilic Conditions


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 6, p. 2015-2025
    Received: July 24, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): jwcwong@hkbu.edu.hk
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  1. Jonathan W. C. Wong *a,
  2. Min Fangab,
  3. Zhenyong Zhaoa and
  4. Baoshan Xingb
  1. a Department of Biology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China
    b Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01002


The bioavailability and biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be increased through the addition of surfactants. Previous studies of this nature have been conducted under mesophilic conditions. Hence, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of synthetic surfactants and biosurfactants on solubilization and degradation of phenanthrene (PHE) in a series of batch solution experiments under thermophilic conditions. Tween 80, Triton X-100, and biosurfactants produced from Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain P-CG3 (P-CG3) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 9027 (P. 9027) were used in this study. Surfactants effectively enhanced the solubility of PHE at 50°C and the biosurfactant from P-CG3 was most effective with a 28-fold increase in apparent solubility of PHE at a concentration of 10 × critical micelle concentration (CMC) compared with the controls. However, addition of synthetic surfactants or biosurfactants inhibited the biodegradation of PHE in mineral salts medium by an isolate Bacillus sp. B-UM. Degradation of PHE diminished with increasing surfactant concentrations, and PHE degradation was completely inhibited for all the surfactants tested when the concentrations were greater than their respective CMC. The growth test suggested that Tween 80 and biosurfactants were degradable, but preferential utilization of these surfactants as substrates was not the mechanism for explaining the inhibition of PHE biodegradation. Because of the hydrophobic property of B-UM, degradation inhibition of PHE by surfactants was probably due to the reduction of direct contact between bacterial cells and PHE.

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