Insights into Mechanistic Models for Evaporation of Organic Liquids in the Environment Obtained by Position-Specific Carbon Isotope Analysis


  • Julien Maxime
  • Nun Pierrick
  • Robins Richard J.
  • Remaud Gérald S.
  • Parinet Julien
  • Höhener Patrick

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Position-specific isotope effects (PSIEs) have been measured by isotope ratio monitoring C-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry during the evaporation of 10 liquids of different polarities under 4 evaporation modes (passive evaporation, air-vented evaporation, low pressure evaporation, distillation). The observed effects are used to assess the validity of the Craig-Gordon isotope model for organic liquids. For seven liquids the overall isotope effect (IE) includes a vapor-liquid contribution that is strongly position specific in polar compounds but less so in apolar compounds and a diffusive IE that is not position-specific, except in the alcohols, ethanol and propan-1-ol. The diffusive IE is diminished under forced evaporation. The position-specific isotope pattern created by liquid-vapor IEs is manifest in five liquids, which have an air-side limitation for volatilization. For the alcohols, undefined processes in the liquid phase create additional PSIEs. Three other liquids with limitations on the liquid side have a lower, highly position-specific, bulk diffusive IE. It is concluded that evaporation of organic pollutants creates unique position-specific isotope patterns that may be used to assess the progress of remediation or natural attenuation of pollution and that the Craig-Gordon isotope model is valid for the volatilization of nonpolar organic liquids with air-side limitation of the volatilization rate.

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