Sorption of Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) using Polyethylene (PE) microplastics as adsorbent: Grand Canonical Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics (GCMC-MD) studies

By Christian Ebere Enyoh, Qingyue Wang, Weiqian Wang, Tanzin Chowdhury, Mominul Haque Rabin, Rezwanul Islam, Guo Yue, Lin Yichun, and Kai Xiao
Int. J. Environ. Anal. Chem.
May 17, 2022
DOI: 10.1080/03067319.2022.2070016

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and microplastics (MPs) removal is one of the main technical measures in these emerging pollutant control and MPs can sorb PFAS acting as carriers. In order to explore the sorption process of polyethylene (PE MPs) for different PFAS, Grand Canonical Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulation was used. Seven commonly found PFAS compounds including PFNA (Perfluorononanoic acid), PFHxS (Perfluorohexanesulphonic acid), PFHxA (Perfluorohexanoic acid), PFDA (Perfluorodecanoic acid), PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), PFBS (Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were selected. The sorption on PE MPs was based on fixed loading and the sorption (PE MPs+PFAS) average total energy for all simulation steps followed PFHxA (−29.17 kcal/mol) < PFBS (−52.71 kcal/mol) < PFOA (−57.12 kcal/mol) < PFNA (−70.58 kcal/mol) < PFDA (−78.27 kcal/mol) < PFHxS (−80.06 kcal/mol) < PFOS (−102.30 kcal/mol). However, the binding/interaction energies followed PFHxS > PFOS > PFNA > PFDA > PFOA > PFBS > PFHxA. The MD simulation was carried out under NVT ensemble at 298 K, the thermodynamic states and relaxation pretreatment procedures were then examined quantitatively by radial distribution function, X-ray scattering, relative concentration profile, mean square displacement and space time correlation function. The results show that effective sorption of PFAS molecule by PE MPs involves hydrogen or chemical bonding as well non-bond energy such as Van der Waals (VdW), electrostatic and intramolecular energies. The cell volume did not change during single and multicomponent sorption while the sorption density increased about threefold the single component (0.36 g/cm3), suggesting that as the pollutant number increased the sorption capacity increased. This study showed that PE MPs can used for single and multicomponent sorption of PFASs effectively and also provided theoretical support for our knowledge of the sorption mechanism at the molecular level, which will help in better understanding of PFAS removal by MPs.


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