Synthetic mesoporous alumina and silica minerals with uniform pore geometries, and their nonporous analogues, were used to test the role of mineral mesopores (2-50 nm diameter) in protecting organic matter from enzymatic degradation in soils and sediments. Dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA), a model humic compound, was irreversibly sorbed to both mineral types. The surface area-normalized adsorption capacity was greater for the mesoporous minerals relative to their nonporous analogues. The degradation kinetics of free and mineral-sorbed L-DOPA by the enzyme laccase was monitored in a closed cell via oxygen electrode. Relative to freely dissolved L-DOPA, nonporous alumina-sorbed substrate was degraded, on average, 90% more slowly and to a lesser extent (93%), likely due to laccase adsorption to alumina. In contrast, relative to free L-DOPA, degradation of nonporous silica-sorbed L-DOPA was enhanced by 20% on average. In the case of mesoporous alumina and silica-sorbed L-DOPA, the enzyme activity was 3-40 times lower than that observed for externally sorbed substrate (i.e., L-DOPA sorbed to nonporous minerals). These results provide strong evidence to support the viability of the mesopore protection mechanism for sequestration and preservation of sedimentary organic matter and organic contaminants. Nanopore adsorption/desorption phenomena may aid in explaining the slow degradation of organic contaminants in certain soils and sediments and may have implications for environmental remediation and biotechnological applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry