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The removal mechanism of natural organic matter by ion exchange resins from thermodynamic perspectives Rahmani, Sonia

Abstract

Natural organic matter (NOM), a constituent in surface drinking water sources, requires removal to minimize its negative impacts on water quality and water treatment processes. Ion exchange (IEX) has been considered as an effective technology for the removal of NOM. However, despite many studies on the IEX removal of NOM, the removal mechanism and the molecular interactions involved in the IEX process are quite unknown due to the complexity of the NOM molecular structure. This research aimed to investigate the NOM removal with a focus on fundamentals underpinning the IEX process and the molecular interactions/forces that drive the retention of NOM onto the IEX resins. Different isolates of NOM along with some pure organic acids were studied. Hydrophobicity was found to play a key role in the removal process. The changes that the hydrophobic moieties impose to the structure of water molecules (i.e., entropy reduction) were found very influential in determining the selectivity of the IEX process. Moreover, the removal of UV-absorbing compounds (more hydrophobic fraction of NOM) was enhanced in the presence of sodium sulphate, as the electrostatic interactions are screened by added salt and consequently the entropic contribution to the removal is promoted. Nonetheless, the entropic contribution from the resin phase (i.e., hydrophobic resin backbone) was shown to negatively impact the removal of UV-absorbing compounds. Overall, combining the findings, it is concluded that the difference in the hydrophobicity (entropy) of the water and the resin phase is the main driving force in transferring NOM molecules from water to the resin. The contribution of the electrostatic and hydrophobic effects to the removal of NOM by IEX resins was further evaluated by quantitative characterization of the thermodynamic properties using isothermal titration calorimetry technique. The results confirmed the significance of entropic contribution to the removal of components with higher hydrophobic characteristics. Findings of this research provide a quantitative framework for the interpretation of the experimental results and facilitate the proper design of the IEX process for different water sources and under various conditions.

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