Environmental Policy

Polymeric nanofiber-carbon nanotube composite mats as fast-equilibrium passive samplers for polar organic contaminants

Qian, J.; Martinez, A.; Marek, R.; Nagorzanski, M.; Zhi, H.; Furlong, E.; Kolpin, D.; LeFevre, G.; Cwiertny, D.M.


To improve the performance of polymeric electrospun nanofiber mats (ENMs) for equilibrium passive sampling applications in water, we integrated two types of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (CNTs; with and without surface carboxyl groups) into polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and polystyrene (PS) ENMs. For 11 polar and moderately hydrophobic compounds (−0.07 ≤ logKOW ≤ 3.13), 90% of equilibrium uptake was achieved in under 0.8 days (t90% values) in nonmixed ENM-CNT systems. Sorption capacity of ENM-CNTs was between 2- and 50-fold greater than pure polymer ENMs, with equilibrium partition coefficients (KENM-W values) ranging from 1.4 to 3.1 log units (L/kg) depending on polymer type (hydrophilic PAN or hydrophobic PS), CNT loading (i.e., values increased with weight percent (wt %) of CNTs), and CNT type (i.e., greater uptake with carboxylated CNTs composites). During field deployment at Muddy Creek in North Liberty, Iowa, optimal ENM-CNTs (PAN with 20 wt % carboxylated CNTs) yielded atrazine concentrations in surface water with a 40% difference relative to analysis of a same-day grab sample. We also observed a mean percent difference of 30 (±20)% when comparing ENM-CNT sampler results to grab sample data collected within 1 week of deployment. With their rapid, high capacity uptake and small material footprint, ENM-CNT equilibrium passive samplers represent a promising alternative to complement traditional integrative passive samplers while offering convenience over large volume grab sampling.