Oxygen Transfer at the Air-Water Interface

  • E. R. Holley
Part of the Marine Science book series (MR, volume 7)


This review paper is primarily concerned with the mechanics of oxygen absorption across the free surface of natural bodies of water. A summary is given of basic concepts related to the solution of oxygen in water, to the rate at which oxygen is absorbed by water, and to the manner in which turbulence in the water influences the absorption or reaeration process, A review is given of some of the analytical models which have been proposed, and some of the empirical relationships which have been derived, for representing the reaeration process. References are cited for several critical reviews of various expressions which have been proposed in the literature for relating the oxygen transfer coefficient, KL, to hydraulic conditions and to fluid properties for flow in streams. These critical reviews indicate that there are significant differences between the prediction equations. Some of these differences apparently result from the fact that all of the variables which have a significant effect on KL have sometimes not been considered in developing the prediction equations. Some of the potentially significant aspects which have not always been given adequate consideration are the boundary layer nature of the surface film and the influence of suspended sediment and wind on reaeration. The available laboratory and field data are presented for the effects of wind speed on KL for both streams and larger bodies of water with small velocities. There is good agreement among the various sets of laboratory data, but there are significant differences between the laboratory data and the space field data on wind effects on KL.


Wind Speed Free Surface Oxygen Transfer Prediction Equation Open Channel Flow 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alonso, C. V., J. R. McHenry, and J.-C.S. Hong, “The Influence of Suspended Sediment on the Reaeration of Uniform Streams,” Water Research, vol. 9, pp. 695–700, 1975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ASCE Committee on Sanitary Engineering Research, “Solubility of Atmospheric Oxygen in Water,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 86, no. SA4, pp. 41–53, July 1960.Google Scholar
  3. Apmann, R. P. and R. R. Rumer, “Diffusion of Sediment in Developing Flow,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 96, no. HY1, pp. 109–123, Jan. 1970.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, D. R., R. C. Loehr, and A. C. Anthonisen, “Oxygen Transfer at High Solids Concentrations,” J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 101, no. EE5, pp. 759–774, Oct. 1975.Google Scholar
  5. Banks, R. B., “Some Features of Wind Action on Shallow Lakes,” J. Envir. Ensr. Div., ASCE, vol. 101, no. EE5, pp. 813–827, Oct. 1975.Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, J. P. and R. E. Rathbun, “Reaeration in Open-Channel Flow,” Prof. Paper 737, U.S. Geological Survey, Gov’t Print. Off., Washington, 75 p., 19 72.Google Scholar
  7. Bird, R. B., W. E. Stewart, and E. N. Lightfoot, Transport Phenomena, Wiley, New York, 1960.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, L. C., “Statistical Evaluation of Reaeration Prediction Equations,” Envir. Engrg. Div., ASCE, vol. 100, no. EE5, pp. 1051–1068, Oct. 1974.Google Scholar
  9. Churchill, M. A., H. L. Elmore, and R. A. Buckingham, “The Prediction of Stream Reaeration Rates,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 88, no. SA4, pp. 1–46, July 1962.Google Scholar
  10. Danckwerts, P. V. V., “Significance of Liquid Film Coefficients in Gas Absorption,” Ind. and Engr. Chem,, vol. 43, pp. 1460ff, June 1951.Google Scholar
  11. Dobbins, W. E., “The Nature of the Oxygen Transfer Coefficient in Aeration Systems,” Chap. 2 - 1 in Biological Treatment of Sewage and Industrial Wastes, ed. J. McCabe and W. W. Eckenfelder, vol. 1, Reinhold, New York, 1956.Google Scholar
  12. Dobbins, W. E., “Mechanism of Gas Absorption by Turbulent Fluids,” paper presented at Intern. Conf. on Water Pollution Research, London, Sept. 3–7, 1962.Google Scholar
  13. Dobbins, W. E., “BOD and Oxygen Relationships in Streams,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 90, no. SA3, pp. 53–78, June 1964.Google Scholar
  14. Downing, A. L. and G. A. Truesdale, “Some Factors Affecting the Rate of Solution of Oxygen in Water,” J. Appl. Chem., vol. 5, pp. 570–581, 1955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eckenfelder, W. W., W. R. Lawrence and D. T. Lauria, “Effect of Various Organic Substances on Oxygen Absorption Efficiency,” Sew, and Ind. Wastes, vol. 28, no. 11, pp. 1357–1364, 1956.Google Scholar
  16. Edinger, J. E., discussion of “Impoundment and Temperature Effect on Waste Assimilation” by P. A. Krendel, E. L. Thackston, and F. L. Parker, J. San. Engr. Div., vol. 95, no. SA5, pp. 991–994, Oct. 1969.Google Scholar
  17. Eheart, J. W. W., “Two-Dimensional Water Quality Modeling and Waste Treatment Optimization for Wide, Shallow Rivers,” Ph.D Thesis, U. Wise. Madison, 371 p., 1975.Google Scholar
  18. Eloubaidy, A. F. and E. J. Plate, “Wind Shear-Turbulence and Re-aeration Coefficient,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 98, no. HY1, pp. 153–170, Jan. 1972.Google Scholar
  19. Engelund, F., “Dispersion of Floating Particles in Uniform Channel Flow,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 95, no. HY5, pp. 1149–1162, July 1969.Google Scholar
  20. Fair, G. M. et al, Water and Wastewater Engineering, vol. 2, Wiley, New York, 1968.Google Scholar
  21. Fan, L. T. and S. N. Hong, “Distributed Discharge of Cooling Water Along Direction of Stream Flow,” Water Resources Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 5, pp. 1031–1043, Oct. 1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Foree, E. G., “Low-Flow Reaeration and Velocity Characteristics of Small Streams,” presented at ASCE Hydr. Div. Symp. on Reaeration Research, Gatlenburg, Tenn., Oct., 1975.Google Scholar
  23. Fortescue, G. E. and J.R.A. Pearson, “On Gas Absorption into a Turbulent Liquid,” Chem. Eng. Sci., vol. 22, pp. 1163–1176, 1967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hann, R. W. et al, Atmospheric Reoxygenation in the Houston Ship Channel,11 Estuarine Systems Project Rept 23, Texas A and M Univ., College Station, 1972.Google Scholar
  25. Harleman, D.R.F. and E. R, Holley, discussion of “Turbulent Diffusion and the Reaeration Coefficient,” by P. A. Krenkel and G. T. Orlob, Trans., ASCE, vol. 128, part III, pp. 327–333, 1963.Google Scholar
  26. Higbie, R., “The Rate of Absorption of a Pure Gas into a Still Liquid during Short Periods of Exposure,” Trans,, AIChE, vol. 31, p. 365, 1935.Google Scholar
  27. Holdroyd, A. and H. B. Parker, “Investigation on the Dynamics of Aeration,” J. and Proc., Inst. Sew. Purif., pt. 4, pp. 280–305, 1952.Google Scholar
  28. Holley, E. R., “Turbulence Measurements near the Free Surface of an Open Channel Flow,” Water Resources Research, vol. 6, no. 3, June 1970.Google Scholar
  29. Holley, E. R., T. Micka, H. Pazwash, and F. W. Sollo, “Effects of Oxygen Demand on Surface Reaeration,” Research Report 46, Water Resources Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 80 p., 1970.Google Scholar
  30. Holley, E. R., “Diffusion and Boundary Layer Concepts in Aeration through Liquid Surfaces,” Water Research, vol. 7, pp. 559–573, 1973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Householder, M. K. and V. W. Goldschmidt, “Turbulent Diffusion and Schmidt Number of Particles,” J. Engr. Mech. Div., ASCE, vol. 95, no. EM6, pp. 1345–1367, Dec. 1969.Google Scholar
  32. Isaacs, W. P. and A. F. Gaudy, Jr., “Atmospheric Oxygenation in a Simulated Stream,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 94, no. SA2, pp. 319–344, April 1968.Google Scholar
  33. Ismail, H. M., “Turbulent Transfer Mechanism and Suspended Sediment in Closed Channels,” Trans., ASCE, vol. 117, p. 409, 1952.Google Scholar
  34. Juliano, D. W., “Reaeration Measurements in an Estuary,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 95, no. SA6, pp. 1165–1178, Dec. 1969.Google Scholar
  35. Kanwisher, J., “On the Exchange of Gases between the Atmosphere and the Sea,” Deep-Sea Research, vol. 10, pp. 195-207, 1963A.Google Scholar
  36. Kanwisher, J., “Effect of Wind on CO2 Exchange Across the Sea Surface,” J. Geoph. Res., vol. 68, no. 13, pp. 3921–3927, July 1, 1963B.Google Scholar
  37. Kehr, R. W., “Effect of Sewage on Atmospheric Reaeration Rates under Stream Flow Conditions,” Sewage Works J., vol. 10, no. 2, p. 228, 1938.Google Scholar
  38. Keshavan, K., G. C. Sornberger, and C. I. Hirshberg, “Oxygen Sag Curve with Thermal Overload,” J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 99, no. EE5, pp. 569–575, Oct. 1973.Google Scholar
  39. Kishinevsky, M. Kh., “The Theoretical Work of Danckwerts in the Field of Absorption,” J. of Applied Chem. of the USSR (English Translation), vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 359–365, April 1954.Google Scholar
  40. Kishinevsky, M. Kh. and V. T. Serebryansky, “The Mechanism of Mass Transfer at the Gas-Liquid Interface with Vigorous Stirring,” J. of Applied Chem. of the USSR (English Translation), vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 29–33, Jan. 1956.Google Scholar
  41. Kramer, G. R., “Predicting Reaeration Coefficients for Polluted Estuary,” J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 100, no. EE1, pp. 77–92, Feb. 1974.Google Scholar
  42. Krenkel, P. A., “Turbulent Diffusion and the Kinetics of Oxygen Absorption,” Ph.D Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1960.Google Scholar
  43. Krenkel, P. A. and G. T. Or lob, “Turbulent Diffusion and the Re-aeration Coefficient,” Trans., ASCE, vol. 128, part III, pp. 293–334, 1963.Google Scholar
  44. Lau, Y. L., “Prediction Equation for Reaeration in Open-Channel Flow,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 98, no. SA6, pp. 1063–1968, Dec. 1972A.Google Scholar
  45. Lau, Y. L., “A Review of Conceptual Models and Prediction Equations for Reaeration in Open-Channel Flow,” Technical Bulletin 61, Inland Waters Branch, Department of the Environment, Ottawa, Canada, 28 p., 1972B.Google Scholar
  46. Lau, Y. L., “Turbulent Surface Film Thickness for Oxygen Absorption in Open Channel Flows,” Hydr. Research Div., Canada Centre for Inland Waters, Burlington, Ont., 16 p., March 1975A.Google Scholar
  47. Lau, Y. L., “An Experimental Investigation of Reaeration in Open Channel Flow,” Progress in Water Tech.,, Pergamon Press, vol. 7, nos. 3/4, pp. 519–530, 1975B.Google Scholar
  48. Lewis, W. K. and W. G. Whitman, Principles of Gas Absorption, Ind. and Engr. Chem., vol. 16, no. 12, pp. 1215–1220, Dec. 1924.Google Scholar
  49. Lin, S. H., L. T. Fan, and C. L. Hwang, “Design of the Optimal Outfall System for a Stream Receiving Thermal and Organic Waste Discharges,” Water Research, vol. 9, no. 7, pp. 623–630, July 1975.Google Scholar
  50. Mattingly, G. E., “Experimental Study of Wind Effects on Reaeration,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 103, no. HY3, pp. 311–323, March 1977.Google Scholar
  51. Metzger, I., “Effects of Temperature on Stream Aeration,” J. San. Engr. Div., vol. 94, no. SA6, pp. 1153–1159, Dec. 1968.Google Scholar
  52. Micka, T., E. R. Holley, and F. W. Sollo, Reaeration Experiments with Microorganisms, J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 99, no. EE6, pp. 971–975, Dec. 1973.Google Scholar
  53. Miyamoto, S., A Theory of the Rate of Solution of Gas into Liquid, Bulletin, Chem. Soc. of Japan, vol. 5, p. 123ff, 1931.Google Scholar
  54. Morris, J. C., discussion of Solubility of Atmospheric Oxygen in Water, J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 87, no. SA1, pp. 81–86, Jan. 1961.Google Scholar
  55. Negulescu, M. and V. Rojanski, “Recent Research to Determine Re-aeration Coefficient,” Water Research, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 189–202, 1969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. O’Connor, D. J. J., “The Measurement and Calculation of Stream Re-aeration Ratio,” Oxygen Relationships in Streams, Tech. Report W-58-2, Taft Sanitary Engineering Center, 1958.Google Scholar
  57. O’Connor, D. J. and W. E. Dobbins, “Mechanism of Reaeration in Natural Streams,” Trans., ASCE, vol. 123, pp. 641–666, 1958.Google Scholar
  58. Orlob, G. T., “Eddy Diffusion in Homogeneous Turbulence,” Trans., ASCE, vol. 126, part I, pp. 397–438, 1959.Google Scholar
  59. Owens, M., R. W. Edwards, and J. W. Gibbs, “Some Reaeration Studies in Streams,” Intern. Journ. Air and Water Poll., vol. 8, pp. 469–486, 1964.Google Scholar
  60. Pasveer, A., “Research on Activated Sludge—I. A Study of the Aeration of Water,” Sewage and Ind. Wastes, vol. 25, no. 11, pp. 1253–1258, Nov. 1953.Google Scholar
  61. Poon, C.P.C., and H. Campbell, “Diffused Aeration in Polluted Water,” Water and Sew. Works, vol. 114, pp. 461–463, 1967.Google Scholar
  62. Rathbun, R. E., discussion of “Wind Shear-Turbulence and Reaera-tion Coefficient,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 98, no. HY9, pp. 1733–1735, Sept. 1972.Google Scholar
  63. Rathbun, R. E., “Reaeration Coefficients of Streams — State-of-the Art,” J. Hydr. Div., ASCE, vol. 103, no. HY4, pp. 409–424, April 1977.Google Scholar
  64. Rood, O. E. and E. R. Holley, “Critical Oxygen Deficit for a Bank Outfall,” J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 100, no. EE3, June 1974.Google Scholar
  65. Sawyer, C. N. and P. L. McCarty, Chemistry for Sanitary Engineers, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, 518 p., 1967.Google Scholar
  66. Sornberger, G. C. and K. Keshavan, “Simulation of Dissolved Oxygen Profile,” J. Envir. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 99, no. EE4, pp. 479–488, Aug. 1973.Google Scholar
  67. Streeter, H. W. and E. B. Phelps, “A Study of the Pollution and Natural Purification of the Ohio River—III. Factors Concerned in the Phenomena of Oxidation and Reaeration,” U.S. Public Health Serv., Publ. Health Bull. 146, 76 p., 1925.Google Scholar
  68. Thackston, E. L., “Longitudinal Mixing and Reaeration in Natural Streams,” Ph.D. Thesis, Vanderbilt Univ., Nashville, 1966.Google Scholar
  69. Thackston, E. L. and P. A. Krenkel, “Reaeration Prediction in Natural Streams,” J. San. Engr. Div., ASCE, vol. 95, no. SA1, pp. 65–94, Feb., 1969.Google Scholar
  70. Thames Survey Committee and the Water Pollution Research Laboratory, “Effects of Polluting Discharges on the Thames Estuary,” Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, pp. 357–358, 1964.Google Scholar
  71. Tsao, G. T., “Simultaneous Gas-Liquid Interfacial Oxygen Absorption and Biochemical Oxidation,” Biotech, and Bioengr., vol. 10, pp. 1289–1290, 1968.Google Scholar
  72. Tsivoglou, E. C. and J. R. Wallace, “Characterization of Stream Reaeration Capacity,” Report EPA-R3-72-012, Project 16050 EDT, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 317 p., Oct. 1972.Google Scholar
  73. van der Kroon, G.T.M., “The Influence of Suspended Solids on the Rate of Oxygen Transfer in Aqueous Solutions,” Water Research, vol. 2, pp. 26–30, 1968.Google Scholar
  74. Vanoni, V. A., “Transportation of Suspended Sediment by Water,” Trans., A.CE, vol. Ill, p. 67, 1946.Google Scholar
  75. Washburn, E. W., International Critical Tables, vol. 5, pp. 63–69 1929.Google Scholar
  76. Whitman, W. G., “The Two-Film Theory of Gas Absorption,” Chem. and Met. Engr., vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 146–148, July 23, 1923.Google Scholar
  77. Wilson, G. T. and N. Macleod, “A Critical Appraisal of Empirical Equations and Models for the Prediction of the Coefficient of Reaeration of Deoxygenated Water,” Water Research, vol. 8, pp 341–366, 1974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. R. Holley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IllinoisUrbana-ChampaignUSA

Personalised recommendations