Evaluation of the interaction between biodegradation and sorption of phenanthrene in soil-slurry systems

Seung H. Woo, Jong M. Park, Bruce E. Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This work develops and utilizes a non-steady-state model for evaluating the interactions between sorption and biodegradation of hydrophobic organic compounds in soil-slurry systems. The model includes sorption/desorption of a target compound, its utilization by microorganisms as a primary substrate existing in the dissolved phase, and/or the sorbed phase in biomass and soil, oxygen transfer, and oxygen utilization as an electron acceptor. Biodegradation tests with phenanthrene were conducted in liquid and soil-slurry systems. The soil-slurry tests were performed with very different mass transfer rates: fast mass transfer in a flask test at 150 rpm, and slow mass transfer in a roller-bottle test at 2 rpm. The results of liquid tests indicate that biodegradation of the soil-soluble organic fraction did not significantly enhance the biodegradation rate. In the slurry tests, phenanthrene was degraded more rapidly than in liquid tests, but at a similar rate in both slurry systems. Modeling analyses with several hypotheses indicate that a model without biodegradation of compound sorbed to the soil was not able to account for the rapid degradation of phenanthrene, particularly in the roller-bottle slurry test. The model with sorbed-phase biodegradation and the same biokinetic parameters, but unique mass transfer coefficients, simulated the experimental data in both slurry tests most successfully. Reduced mass transfer resistance to bacteria attached to the soil is the most likely phenomenon accounting for rapid sorbed-phase biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-24
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 5 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodegradation
  • Kinetics
  • Non-steady-state model
  • Phenanthrene
  • Soil slurry
  • Sorbed-phase biodegradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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