Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 209, Issue 1–4, pp 3–13 | Cite as

Aqueous Solution of Anionic Surfactants Mixed with Soils Show a Synergistic Reduction in Surface Tension

  • Kerstin Hagenhoff
  • Jingfeng Dong
  • Babur Z. Chowdhry
  • Stephen Anthony Leharne


Water retention and transport in soils is dependent upon the surface tension of the aqueous phase. Surfactants present in aqueous solution reduce the surface tension of aqueous phase. In soil–water systems, this can result in water drainage and reductions in field capacity and hydraulic conductivity. In this investigation, the surface tension of surfactant solutions mixed with soil—in a constant fixed ratio—was measured as a function of surfactant concentration. Two anionic surfactants were used: sodium dodecyl sulphate and sodium bis (2-ethylhexyl) sulfosuccinate. Two soils were also used—a clay soil and a sandy soil. The key observation made by this investigation was that the addition of soil to the surfactant solution provided a further component of surface tension reduction. Neither soil sample reduced the surface tension of water when surfactant was absent from the aqueous phase, though both soils released soil organic matter at low surfactant concentrations as shown by measurement of the chemical oxygen demand of the supernatant solutions. Furthermore, both surfactants were shown to be weakly adsorbed by soil as shown by the use of a methylene blue assay. It is therefore proposed that the additional reduction in surface tension arises from synergistic interactions between the surfactants and dissolved soil organic matter.


Surfactant Soil water Surface tension 



The authors wish to thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK) for funding the work reported in this paper (grant number EP/F01015X).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Hagenhoff
    • 1
  • Jingfeng Dong
    • 2
  • Babur Z. Chowdhry
    • 1
  • Stephen Anthony Leharne
    • 1
  1. 1.Medway School of ScienceUniversity of Greenwich at MedwayKentUK
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry & Molecular SciencesWuhan UniversityWuchangChina

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