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Attenuation of Methyl tert-Butyl Ether in Water Using Sunlight and a Photocatalyst

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The use of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) as a gasoline additive has resulted in increasing pollution of groundwater. Most of the conventional treatment technologies are inefficient or costly when the initial concentration of MTBE is low (< 200 μg/L). To find an ecology friendly and inexpensive method for MTBE remediation, we used solar radiation with titanium dioxide (TiO2) as a photocatalyst. For synthetic samples, almost complete degradation (99+%) of MTBE was observed at the end of 5-hour test run with 0.05 g/L of slurry TiO2. Intermediate products detected were tertiary butyl formate, tertiary butyl alcohol, and trace amounts of acetone. Studies conducted using contaminated groundwater samples with TiO2 and sunlight showed that aromatic organic species benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) were degraded up to a factor of 10 times faster than MTBE. However, dissolved metals (Fe2+) and chloride ions in contaminated waters decreased the photo-activity of TiO2 for the degradation of MTBE. Reducing the pH of the groundwater samples increased the MTBE degradation rate threefold. Photocatalysis accelerates the solar degradation of MTBE and reduces its half-life by more than 3 orders of magnitude. The study indicated that solar degradation is a low-cost and effective alternative to attenuate MTBE in drinking water supplies.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-03-01

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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