Relationships between the structure of natural organic matter and its reactivity towards molecular ozone and hydroxyl radicals

Paul Westerhoff, George Aiken, Gary Amy, Jean Debroux

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374 Scopus citations


Oxidation reaction rate parameters for molecular ozone (O3) and hydroxyl (HO) radicals with a variety of hydrophobic organic acids (HOAs) isolated from different geographic locations were determined from batch ozonation studies. Rate parameter values, obtained under equivalent dissolved organic carbon concentrations in both the presence and absence of non-NOM HO radical scavengers, varied as a function of NOM structure. First-order rate constants for O3 consumption (k(O3)) averaged 8.8 x 10-3 s-1, ranging from 3.9 x 10-3 s-1 for a groundwater HOA to > 16 x 10-3 s-1 for river HOAs with large terrestrial carbon inputs. The average second-order rate constant (k(HO,DOC) between HO radicals and NOM was 3.6 x 108 l (mol C)-1 s-1; a mass of 12 g C per mole C was used in all calculations. Specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA) at 254 or 280 nm of the HOAs correlated well (r > 0.9) with O3 consumption rate parameters, implying that organic π-electrons strongly and selectively influence oxidative reactivity. HO radical reactions with NOM were less selective, although correlation between k(HO,DOC) and SUVA existed. Other physical-chemical properties of NOM, such as aromatic and aliphatic carbon content from 13C-NMR spectroscopy, proved less sensitive for predicting oxidation reactivity than SUVA. The implication of this study is that the structural nature of NOM varies temporally and spatially in a water source, and both the nature and amount of NOM will influence oxidation rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2265-2276
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999


  • Fulvic acid
  • Hydroxyl radical
  • Kinetics
  • Natural organic matter structure
  • Ozone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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