Removing PAHs from urban runoff water by combining ozonation and carbon nano-onions

Chainarong Sakulthaew, Steve D. Comfort, Chanat Chokejaroenrat, Xu Li, Clifford E. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Ozone (O3) is a chemical oxidant capable of transforming polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in urban runoff within minutes but complete oxidation to CO2 can take days to weeks. We developed and tested a flow-through system that used ozone to quickly transform PAHs in a runoff stream and then removed the ozone-transformed PAHs via adsorption to carbon nano-onions (CNOs). To quantify the efficacy of this approach, 14C-labeled phenanthrene and benzo(a)pyrene, as well as a mixture of 16 unlabeled PAHs were used as test compounds. These PAHs were pumped from a reservoir into a flow-through reactor that continuously ozonated the solution. Outflow from the reactor then went to a chamber that contained CNOs to adsorb the ozone-transformed PAHs and allowed clean water to pass. By adding a microbial consortium to the CNOs following adsorption, we observed that bacteria were able to degrade the adsorbed products and release more soluble, biodegradable products back into solution. Control treatments confirmed that parent PAH structures (i.e., non-ozonated) were not biologically degraded following CNO adsorption and that O3-transformed PAHs were not released from the CNOs in the absence of bacteria. These results support the combined use of ozone, carbon nano-onions with subsequent biological degradation as a means of removing PAHs from urban runoff or a commercial waste stream.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-273
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Bioremediation
  • Carbon nano-onions
  • Ozone
  • PAHs
  • Urban runoff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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