Modeling of TCE Diffusion to the Atmosphere and Distribution in Plant Stems


Fate of chlorinated solvents in phytoremediation has been delineated by many discoveries made in recent years. Plant uptake, metabolism, rhizosphere degradation, accumulation, and volatilization were shown to occur to differing degrees for many organic contaminants including chlorinated solvents. Among these mechanistic findings, recent research confirmed that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) volatilize from stems and that the resulting diffusive flux to the atmosphere is related to exposure concentration and to height up the stem. A comprehensive model was developed based upon all identified fate and transport mechanisms for VOCs, including translocation in the xylem flow and diffusion. The dispersion and diffusion in the radial direction were considered as one process (effective diffusion) as the two could not be investigated individually. The mechanism-based model mathematically indicates an exponential decrease of concentrations with height. While an analytic solution for the comprehensive model was not attained, it can serve as a starting point for other modeling efforts. The comprehensive model was simplified in this work for practical application to experimentally obtained data on trichloroethylene (TCE) fate. Model output correlated well with experimental results, and effective diffusivities for TCE in plant tissues were obtained through the model calibrations. The simplified model approximated TCE concentrations in the transpiration stream as well as TCE volatilization to the atmosphere. Xylem transport, including advection, dispersion, and diffusion through cell walls with subsequent volatilization to the atmosphere, is a major fate for VOCs in phytoremediation.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Plant Stems; Chlorinated Solvents; Rhizosphere Degradation; Atmosphere; Phytoremediation; Trichloroethylene

Document Type

Article - Journal

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