Faculty Advisor

John A. Bergendahl

Faculty Advisor

Frederick L. Hart

Faculty Advisor

Paul Mathisen

Faculty Advisor

Jeanine D. Plummer

Faculty Advisor

Robert W. Thompson


"The simultaneous degradation of five organic contaminants: 1,4 dioxane, n-nitrosodimethylamine, tris-2-chloroethyl phosphate, gemfibrozil, and 17β estradiol, was investigated using a 1 L batch water-jacketed UV photoreactor utilizing titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles (Degussa P-25) as a photocatalyst. The primary objectives of this research were: (1) to experimentally assess the feasibility of heterogeneous photocatalysis as a promising alternative for the degradation of organic compounds in water; and (2) to model the chemical reactions by the application of two different approaches based on adsorption – surface reactions (Langmuir–Hinshelwood) and its simplification to a first order rate reaction. These objectives were motivated by the lack of information regarding simultaneous degradation of organic compounds in different categories as found in real aqueous matrices, and generation of specific intermediates that could eventually represent a potential risk to the environment. Contaminants were chosen based on their occurrence in water sources, their representativeness of individual sub-categories, and their importance as part of the CCL3 as potential contaminants to be regulated. Contaminant degradation was evaluated over time, and the TiO2 concentration and solution pH were varied under constant UV irradiation, oxygen delivery rate, mixing gradient, and temperature. 

 Specific accomplishments of this study were: (1) reaction kinetics data were obtained from the UV/TiO2 experiments and showed the potential that this UV/TiO2 process has for effectively removing different types of organic compounds from water; (2) a good fit was obtained between photocatalytic reaction kinetics models and the contaminant data using pseudo first-order and Langmuir-Hinshelwood (L-H) models; (3) results of the analytical methods developed in this study were validated by measurements performed by a certified laboratory; (4) the reaction kinetic parameters obtained in this study were normalized to electrical energy per order, reactor volume and surface area of the photocatalyst in order to provide rate constants with wider applicability for scale-up to more complex systems; and (5) degradation intermediates from the oxidation process and from interaction among compounds were identified and possible pathways for their formation suggested. This research has provided a better understanding of the photocatalytic process for the removal of organic contaminants from complex aqueous matrices."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Titanium dioxide, UV light, emerging contaminants, Heterogeneous photocatalysis