Ultraviolet (UV) photolysis of sixteen pharmaceutical compounds (PhCs) in mixed solutions with four types of water and two sets of UV radiation was investigated. UVC (254 nm) photolysis was ineffective at eliminating a large number of PhCs while a big number of them were refractory. However, vacuum UV (VUV: 185 nm + 254 nm) photolysis in the same experimental conditions eliminated the PhCs almost completely. The eliminations in ultrapure water (UPW), tap water (TW) and Neya River water (NRW) and their organic/inorganic contents were inversely correlated, which was more evident in VUV photolysis. Natural organic matter (NOM) in NRW did not have an impact in indirect photolysis, but effluent organic matter (EfOM) in secondary-treated effluent (NWTPE) enhanced indirect photolysis, which was more evident in VUV photolysis underlining the point that radiation wavelength/intensity can be a limiting factor in organic-rich waters. Moreover, VUV photolysis was far superior (90% mineralization) to UVC photolysis (10% mineralization) for PhCs mineralization. The greatly enhanced elimination and mineralization efficiencies observed for VUV photolysis were attributed to accelerated direct photolysis with 185 nm wavelength and indirect photolysis involving ·OH. The results demonstrated efficacy of VUV photolysis in wastewater treatment and its potential use as a tertiary treatment.
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