TCE diffusion to the atmosphere in phytoremediation applications.
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The phytoremediation of trichloroethylene (TCE) and other chlorinated compounds has been studied over the past decade, and full-scale systems are in place. The results regarding TCE fates and removal pathways are inconclusive and conflicting, particularly the results regarding volatilization to the atmosphere. Research presented here demonstrates that TCE is taken up by trees and volatilized to the atmosphere. TCE diffusion along the transpiration pathway is shown to be the primary process for TCE volatilization, although volatilization can occur from both stems and leaves. Two concurrent processes influence the eventual fate: transport with transpiration stream through xylem tissues and diffusion from transpiration stream to atmosphere. TCE diffusion flux invariably decreased with height for trees planted in soil or grown hydroponically. In both laboratory experiments and field sampling, TCE concentrations in the transpiration stream (e.g., xylem tissues) decreased with elevation. In field samples, TCE concentrations also decreased in the radial direction, providing fundamental evidence for diffusion. The TCE concentrations in tissues responded linearly to the exposure concentrations at the roots, while TCE diffusion from tree stems was influenced by concentration and transpiration rates.