Bioavailability of hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) is an important factor affecting their fate in the environment. Molecular-level HOC-soil organic matter (SOM) interactions and associated impacts on its bioavailability were investigated in this study. Our results showed that, phenanthrene (PHE) was mainly sequestrated in aromatic domains of lignin, as indicated by liquid-state (1)H-(13)C heteronuclear multiple quantum coherence (HMQC) NMR along with solid-state (13)C NMR data and information on surface domain distribution of this biopolymer as shown by its X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic data. Here, surface domain distribution was defined as the relative abundance of sorption domains at the surfaces versus that in the bulky biopolymer particles and their spatial positions. Wax had much higher sorption for PHE than cellulose, but no striking difference in degradability of wax- and cellulose-sorbed PHE was observed, which can be ascribed to much more hydrophobic surface of wax relative to that of cellulose, making it more favorable for bacteria PYR-1 attachment. This work highlighted the joint effects of functionalities and surface domain distribution of SOM on bioavailability of HOCs (e.g., PHE).
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