Destruction of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's) and aliphatic hydrocarbons in soil using ball milling
Magoha, Happy Steven
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This study involves the use of ball mill as a mechanochemical reactor in the destruction of environmental contaminants. Although the technology has the potential to be used for a wide range of organic contaminants, this study focused on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's) and aliphatic hydrocarbons. There are different methods for the remediation of the environmental contaminants such as biological, chemical and thermal techniques, most of which are costly. The ball mill is less costly as it involves low technology and little or no other chemicals seem to be needed to give complete destruction of the substances investigated. The mill is relatively easy to construct and can be made in different designs and dimensions to fit its intended purpose i.e. they can range from a laboratory scale to a very large industrial mill for the continuous processing of tonnes of material at a time. The process can be sealed so pollution from the mill is easy to control. In this study two classes of environmental contaminants were investigated. PAH's are common by-products of combustion and are found as contaminants in many soils. The other compounds investigated were the larger aliphatic hydrocarbons. These were chosen as being representative of the evaporated residues from fuel spills or leaks. A laboratory scale centrifugal ball mill with capacity of approximately 200 g was used for the study. The PAH's investigated were naphthalene, anthracene and phenanthrene. The aliphatic hydrocarbons n-eicosane and n-octacosane were used as the model compounds for hydrocarbon residues. Different soil types (scoria, clay soil, silica sand and slag) were spiked with a known amount of these contaminants. The ball milling was done under different milling conditions i.e. with different ball ratio and with different milling duration. In some experiments there was an addition of materials such as a potential free radical trap or metals to investigate the effect on the mechanochemical reaction. The samples were analysed using an ultrasonic extraction method (EPA METHOD 3550C) with GC and GC-MS analysis of the extract for the quantification of the residual contaminant in the soil and identification of possible secondary products and reaction intermediates. It was found that high destruction efficiency was achieved using milling times of between 120 and 150 minutes and high ball to soil ratios for example 7:1 ball mass to soil mass ratio. Also it was found that different type of soil had an influence on the mechanochemical reaction. A silica matrix was found to have a better destruction rate compared to scoria and clay soil. It was also found that the PAH compounds were more rapidly destroyed by ball milling than were aliphatic hydrocarbons. The addition of BHT was found to reduce destruction rate of both PAH's and aliphatic hydrocarbons. This suggests the mechanism of destruction may involve a free radical mechanism. Aluminium metal was observed to have no significant effect in the destruction. The presence of lubricants such as waxes in the contaminated soil appeared to inhibit the mechanochemical reaction although the mechanism is still uncertain. From this study it was concluded that, the ball mill has considerable potential as an effective, low cost method for the destruction of certain environmental contaminants.