New thermodynamic entropy calculation based approach towards quantifying the impact of eutrophication on water environment

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Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2017, 603-604 pp. 86 - 93
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© 2017 Although the eutrophication phenomenon has been studied for a long time, there are still no quantifiable parameters available for a comprehensive assessment of its impacts on the water environment. As contamination alters the thermodynamic equilibrium of a water system to a state of imbalance, a novel method was proposed, in this study, for its quantitative evaluation. Based on thermodynamic analyses of the algal growth process, the proposed method targeted, both theoretically and experimentally, the typical algae species encountered in the water environment. By calculating the molar enthalpy of algae biomass production, the heat energy dissipated in the photosynthetic process was firstly evaluated. The associated entropy production (ΔS) in the aquatic system could be then obtained. For six algae strains of distinct molecular formulae, the heat energy consumed for the production of a unit algal biomass was found to proportionate to the mass of nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) uptake through photosynthesis. A proportionality relationship between ΔS and the algal biomass with a coefficient circa 44 kJ/g was obtained. By the principle of energy conservation, the heat energy consumed in the process of algae biomass production is stored in the algal biomass. Furthermore, by measuring the heat of combustion of mature algae of Microcystis flos-aquae, Anabaena flos-aquae, and Chlorella vulgaris, the proportionality relationships between the heat energy and the N and P contents were validated experimentally at 90% and 85% confidence levels, respectively. As the discharge of excess N and P from domestic wastewater treatment plants is usually the main cause of eutrophication, the proposed impact assessment approach estimates that for a receiving water body, the ΔS due to a unit mass of N and P discharge is 268.9 kJ/K and 1870.1 kJ/K, respectively. Consequently, P discharge control would be more important for environmental water protection.
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