Benzene photolysis on ice: Implications for the fate of organic contaminants in the winter

Tara F. Kahan, D. J. Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The members of the important class of organic pollutants known as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) do not undergo direct photolysis in natural waters, because their absorption spectra do not overlap that of the solar radiation which reaches the Earths surface. Recent work has shown that aromatic compounds undergo significant red-shifts in their absorption spectra when they are present at air-ice interfaces, suggesting that BTEX components could undergo direct photolysis at ice surfaces. Using glancing-angle laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) as a probe, we measured benzene photodegradation at - > 295 nm having a rate constant of (3 ± 1 - 10-4 s-1) under our experimental conditions. We predict that the photolysis rate at environmental ice surfaces will be similar, based on the photon flux dependence we measured. This study presents the first report of direct benzene photolysis under environmentally relevant conditions. The results suggest that direct photolysis could be an important removal pathway for organic pollutants such as BTEX in snow-covered regions, for example, in polar or urban areas contaminated by oil spills or leaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3819-3824
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Benzene photolysis on ice: Implications for the fate of organic contaminants in the winter'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this