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Stokes Shift and Specific Fluorescence as Potential Indicators of Organic Matter Hydrophobicity and Molecular Weight in Membrane Bioreactors

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journal contribution
posted on 12.06.2019, 00:00 by Kang Xiao, Bingjun Han, Jianyu Sun, Jihua Tan, Jinlan Yu, Shuai Liang, Yuexiao Shen, Xia Huang
Hydrophobicity and molecular weight (MW) are two fundamental properties of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in wastewater treatment systems. This study proposes fluorescence Stokes shift and specific fluorescence intensity (SFI) as novel indicators of hydrophobicity and MW. These indicators originate from the energy gap and photon efficiency of the fluorescence process and can be readily extracted from a fluorescence excitation–emission matrix (EEM). The statistical linkages between these indicators and hydrophobicity/MW were explored through investigation of DOM across 10 full-scale membrane bioreactors treating municipal wastewater. Stokes shift was found to exhibit a general rule among the hydrophobicity components in the order of hydrophilic substances (HIS) < hydrophobic acids (HOA) < hydrophobic bases (HOB). The Stokes shift of 1.2 μm–1 is a critical border, above which the relative fluorescence correlated significantly with the HOA-related content (Pearson’s r = 0.8). With regard to MW distribution (<1, 1–10, 10–100, and >100 kDa), SFI was found to be the most sensitive to the change of MW of <1 kDa proportion, especially at the excitation/emission wavelengths of 200–320/310–550 nm (r > 0.9). Hydrophobicity-related π conjugation and MW-dependent light exposure might be responsible for the correlations. These fluorescence indicators may be useful for convenient monitoring of DOM in wastewater treatment systems.