Hydrophobic properties and chemical characterisation of natural water repellent materials in Australian sands

Biotechnology, School of Medicine, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; Department of Soil Science, University of Adelaide, P.M.B.1, Glen Osmond, Adelaide, SA 5064, Australia
Journal of Hydrology (Impact Factor: 2.69). 05/2000; DOI: 10.1016/S0022-1694(00)00182-7

ABSTRACT Water-repellency in non-wetting sands is due to hydrophobic waxes present on the surface of sand grains and contained in particulate organic matter present in these sands. This study investigates the physico-chemical characteristics of these natural waxes and compares them to waxes extracted from potential original source materials.Non-polar and polar hydrophobic wax extracts were obtained from whole non-wetting sand, and its individual constituents, and associated organic matter. These included the sand fraction, the intrinsic particulate organic matter, tree litter, eucalyptus leaves, bark, lucerne and lupin plants, and fungi and actinomycetes isolated from these sands. Waxes were characterised for their hydrophobic properties and composition of their chemical constituents. The hydrophobicities of the waxes were assessed by measuring the water-repellency induced after treating acid washed sand with wax extracts.Non-polar and polar wax extracts of the tree litter displayed hydrophobic properties that were similar to the corresponding waxes isolated from non-wetting sand and intrinsic particulate organic matter. Unlike these plant-derived waxes, the microbial wax extracts possessed different hydrophobic properties.Characterisation of the components of the extracted waxes by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) analysis revealed a strong similarity in the composition of waxes isolated from non-wetting sand, tree litter and other plant material. The major components found were unbranched and branched C16 to C36 fatty acids and their esters, alkanes, phytanols, phytanes, and sterols. Some of these components were not detected in the microbial waxes.Unextracted samples, as well as wax extracts of non-wetting sand, intrinsic particulate organic matter, tree litter and fresh plant material were further analysed by solution and solid state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy which revealed the relative content of the different chemical species present.

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