Micellar solubilization of binary organic liquid mixtures for surfactant enhanced aquifer remediation

Douglas I. Walker, Natalie L. Cápiro, Emmie Chen, Katelyn Anderson, Kurt D. Pennell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) are typically released to the environment as complex mixtures, most investigations of subsurface remediation focus on single contaminants and ignore the potential effects of co-constituents on mass recovery and groundwater plume evolution. In this study, we investigate the dissolution and micellar solubilization of binary NAPL mixtures in completely mixed batch reactors and heterogeneous aquifer cells using a commercially-available nonionic surfactant, Tween® 80. Micellar solubilization of trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene (PCE), decane, and dodecane measured in batch studies containing binary mixtures of TCE/PCE or decane/dodecane exhibited nonideal behavior that could not be predicted using Raoult's law. For a mixed PCE/decane NAPL, micellar solubilization of PCE was approximately 40% less than predicted, while decane was over 100% greater, which was attributed to expansion of the micelle core. In two aquifer cells containing different size fractions of quartz sand and low-permeability lenses, the initial NAPL (1:1 TCE:PCE) saturation distributions resulted in “pool” fractions (PFs) of 0.88 and 0.36. During the initial water flood, the greater aqueous solubility of TCE relative to PCE resulted in preferential removal of TCE from the source zone. However, when a 4% (wt) solution of Tween® 80 was introduced, preferential micellar solubilization of PCE relative to TCE resulted in enhanced removal of PCE, with TCE mass discharge reduced from 97% and 90% and PCE mass discharge reduced from 79% and 53%. The observed relationships between mass discharge and mass removal indicating that plume evolution is strongly influenced by the initial NAPL saturation distribution, changes in the mole fraction of NAPL constituents, and regions of high NAPL saturation that persist over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-368
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Surfactants and Detergents
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Rauolt's law
  • Tween® 80
  • aquifer
  • micellar solubilization
  • mixtures
  • non-aqueous phase liquid
  • remediation
  • surfactant


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