Effect of natural organic substances on the surface and adsorptive properties of environmental black carbon (char): pseudo pore blockage by model lipid components and its implications for N2-probed surface properties of natural sorbents

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Environ Sci Technol, Volume 39, Number 20, p.7932-9 (2005)


0013-936X (Print)

Accession Number:



Adsorption, Benzene/chemistry, Carbon Dioxide/chemistry, Carbon/ chemistry, Models, Chemical, Nitrogen/ chemistry, Porosity, Surface Properties, Temperature, Triglycerides/ chemistry


Black carbon (BC; char and soot) particles emitted to the environment typically are formed with high microporosity and surface area, properties that are responsible for their presumed important role in adsorption of anthropogenic organic compounds in soils and sediments. An issue that has received little direct attention is the possibility that naturally occurring organic matter attenuates the surface activity of BC. We found that simulated "aging" of prepared wood char particles in a soil-water suspension leads to a strong decline in char total surface area (TSA) by N2 adsorption at 77 K with BET analysis and a more modest decline in affinity for dissolved benzene. To help determine the underlying cause, we measured the effects of adsorbed natural lipids or lipid fractions of humic substances, modeled by triglycerides of a commercial vegetable oil. With increasing lipid loading (up to 40% by char weight) from aqueous mixtures, N2 TSA was strongly suppressed (up to 100-fold), while CO2 cumulative surface area (CSA, 0-1.4 nm) at 273 K and benzene adsorption at 293 K were hardly affected. In addition, the rate of CO2 adsorption was retarded. We propose that externally adsorbed lipid molecules occupy pore throats with access to interior pore networks. At 77 K, as opposed to the higher temperatures, lipid chains are too inflexible to allow passage of adsorbate. It is concluded that benzene adsorption to char predominates at interior pore sites and does not correlate with N2-probed micropore properties when the char accrues pore-blocking substances from the surroundings. The findings question the suitability of N2 for probing hydrophobic microporosity of BC in soils and sediments.


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