Effects of nonionic surfactants on bacterial transport through porous media

Derick G. Brown, Peter R. Jaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Nonionic surfactants of the form CxEy, where x is the number of carbons in the alkyl chain and y is the number of ethylene oxide units in the polyoxyethylene (POE) chain, were studied for their ability to alter the transport of Sphingomonas pacilimobilis through an aquifer sand. The surfactants C12E4 (Brij 30) and C12E23 (Brij 35) were the focus of this study. Through a systematic study, it was shown that these nonionic surfactants were able to enhance the transport of this bacterial culture through porous media. The magnitude of the enhancement increased with decreasing solution ionic strength and increasing POE chain length. The mechanism of this enhanced transport appears to be due to expansion of the electric double layer about the bacteria and aquifer sand through displacement of the counterions by the sorbed surfactant. This expanded electric double layer increases the electrostatic repulsion, with a resultant reduction in the collision efficiency and an increase in the Langmuirian blocking parameter. Application of the colloid filtration theory with the experimental parameters of this study shows that nonionic surfactants have the potential to significantly enhance the bacterial travel distance, especially for low ionic strength systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3877-3883
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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