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Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a widely used gasoline oxygenate. Contamination of MTBE and its major degradation product tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) in groundwater and surface water has received great attention. However, sorption affinity and sorption mechanisms of MTBE and TBA to synthetic resins, which can be potentially used in removal of these contaminants from water, in passive sampling, or in enrichment of bacteria, have not been studied systemically. In this study, kinetic and equilibrium sorption experiments (single solute and binary mixtures) on four synthetic resins were conducted. The sorption affinity of the investigated sorbents for MTBE and TBA decreases in the order Ambersorb 563>Optipore L493>Amberlite XAD4>Amberlite XAD7, and all show higher sorption affinity for MTBE than for TBA. Binary experiments with o-xylene, a major compound of gasoline as co-contaminant, imply that all resins preferentially sorb o-xylene over MTBE or TBA, i.e., there is sorption competition. In the equilibrium aqueous concentration (Ceq) range (0.1-139.0 mg/L for MTBE, and 0.01-48.4 mg/L for TBA), experimental and modeling results as well as sorbent characteristics indicate that micropore filling and/or some other type of adsorption process (e.g., adsorption to specific sites of high sorption potential at low concentrations) rather than partitioning were the dominant sorption mechanisms. Optipore L493 has favourable sorption and desorption characteristics, and is a suitable sorbent, e.g., in bacteria enrichment or passive sampling for moderately polar compounds. However, for highly polar compounds such as TBA, Ambersorb 563 might be a better choice, especially in water treatment.


Erping Bi, Stefan B Haderlein, Torsten C Schmidt. Sorption of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) to synthetic resins. Water research. 2005 Oct;39(17):4164-76

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PMID: 16139865

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