Biodegradation and sorption properties of polydisperse acrylate polymers

Bruce E. Rittmann, Julie A. Sutfin, Benjamin Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Polyacrylate (PA), which is widely used in disposable diapers, is synthesized by polymerization and cross-linking of acrylate. During the synthesis, 3-6% of the polyacrylate polymers is not incorporated into the absorbent material, but remains soluble. If the soluble PA is mobilized from a landfill, it could enter the groundwater. Therefore, the biodegradation and adsorption properties of soluble polymers contained in PA are determined in this study. The soluble PA is highly polydisperse, and the fraction tested has a weight-average molecular-weight of 16,700 and a range extending from 103 to 105. Sand-column tracer tests show that about 1% of the polyacrylate is unadsorbed, but the remainder has a retardation factor that averages at least 58. Biodegradation kinetics are determined in completely mixed biofilm reactors having a methanogenic consortium grown on glucose. The polyacrylate fraction, as well as glucose and acrylate, are removed and mineralized to CO2. The Monod parameters for the polyacrylate are: maximum specific rate of substrate utilization = 0.0016 gC/g biomass-day, and half-maximum-rate concentration = 0.79 gC/m3. Although these kinetics are much slower than for glucose and acrylate, significant degradation and mineralization are observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-191
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • acrylate
  • adsorption
  • biodegradation kinetics
  • methanogenic consortium
  • polyacrylate
  • polydisperse
  • sand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution


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