Fate of chemicals in the environment

photo: UFZ

When chemicals are released into the environment, they are subject to complex interactions with the various environmental compartments. Understanding these interactions is essential for predicting the fate of chemicals and developing management options for avoiding negative environmental impacts.

In this respect we focus on abiotic processes, such as chemical reactions (e.g. hydrolysis) which lead to transformation of chemicals under environmental conditions. On the other hand we study the partitioning and interactions of chemicals within the various environmental compartments (e.g. soil, water with   dissolved sorbents , air), which significantly affect chemical fate with respect to toxicity, transport or availability for transformation processes.

Partitioning processes can be thermodynamically controlled, if there is enough time for reaching equilibrium conditions. However, in more dynamic systems, kinetics can be more important, i.e. the rate of mass-transfer and sorption/ desorption processes can determine the overall process.

For studying such phenomena with an adequate sensitivity and time-resolution we developed and apply various innovative methods, such as: