Solubility data of recalcitrant contaminants in cosolvents is essential to determine their potential applications in enhanced soil remediation. The solubilities of phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene and benzo[a]pyrene in ethyl lactate/water and ethanol/water mixtures were measured using equilibrium techniques. The cosolvency powers derived from solubility data were then applied to the model developed from the solvophobic approach to predict the capability of ethyl lactate and ethanol in enhancing the desorption of contaminants from soils. Both ethyl lactate and ethanol cosolvents were shown to be able to enhance the solubilisation of the tested four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by > 4 orders of magnitude above the levels obtained with water alone. However, ethyl lactate demonstrated a greater capacity to enhance PAH solubility than ethanol. The cosolvency powers of ethyl lactate/water system obtained from the end-to-end slope (sigma) and the end-to-half slope (sigma0.5) of the solubilisation curve were 1.0-1.5 and 2.0-2.9 higher than ethanol/water system respectively. In line with this, ethyl lactate/water was demonstrated to enhance the desorption of contaminants from soil by 20%-37% and 18%-61% higher compared to ethanol/water system in low organic content and high organic content soils respectively, with a 2:1 (V/W) ratio of solution:soil and with cosolvent fraction as low as 0.4. With the exception of benzo[a]pyrene, the experimental desorption results agreed fairly with the predicted values, under an applied solution:soil ratio that was enough to hold the capacity of released contaminants.
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