Selection criteria for oxidation method in total organic carbon measurement

Geun Seok Yoon, Sang Min Park, Heuiwon Yang, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Daniel S. Alessi, Kitae Baek

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


During the measurement of total organic carbon (TOC), dissolved organic carbon is converted into CO 2 by using high temperature combustion (HTC) or wet chemical oxidation (WCO). However, the criteria for selecting the oxidation methods are not clear. In this study, the chemical structures of organic material were considered as a key factor to select the oxidation method used. Most non-degradable organic compounds showed a similar oxidation efficiency in both methods, including natural organic compounds, dyes, and pharmaceuticals, and thus both methods are appropriate to measure TOC in waters containing these compounds. However, only a fraction of the carbon in the halogenated compounds (perfluorooctanoic acid and trifluoroacetic acid) were oxidized using WCO, resulting in measured TOC values that are considerably lower than those determined by HTC. This result is likely due to the electronegativity of halogen elements which inhibits the approach of electron-rich sulfate radicals in the WCO, and the higher bond strength of carbon-halogen pairs as compared to carbon-hydrogen bonds, which results in a lower degree of oxidation of the compounds. Our results indicate that WCO could be used to oxidize most organic compounds, but may not be appropriate to quantify TOC in organic carbon pools that contain certain halogenated compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-458
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Combustion
  • Organic matter
  • Total organic carbon
  • Wet chemical oxidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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