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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Organic Compounds in the Environment

Adsorption of Pharmaceuticals to Microporous Activated Carbon Treated with Potassium Hydroxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Steam


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 6, p. 1886-1894
    Received: Mar 27, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): zhud@nju.edu.cn
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  1. Heyun Fu,
  2. Liuyan Yang,
  3. Yuqiu Wan,
  4. Zhaoyi Xu and
  5. Dongqiang Zhu *
  1. State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse/School of the Environment, Nanjing Univ., Jiangsu 210093, China. Assigned to Associate Editor Hui Li


Adsorption of sulfapyridine, tetracycline, and tylosin to a commercial microporous activated carbon (AC) and its potassium hydroxide (KOH)-, CO2-, and steam-treated counterparts (prepared by heating at 850°C) was studied to explore efficient adsorbents for the removal of selected pharmaceuticals from water. Phenol and nitrobenzene were included as additional adsorbates, and nonporous graphite was included as a model adsorbent. The activation treatments markedly increased the specific surface area and enlarged the pore sizes of the mesopores of AC (with the strongest effects shown on the KOH-treated AC). Adsorption of large-size tetracycline and tylosin was greatly enhanced, especially for the KOH-treated AC (more than one order of magnitude), probably due to the alleviated size-exclusion effect. However, the treatments had little effect on adsorption of low-size phenol and nitrobenzene due to the predominance of micropore-filling effect in adsorption and the nearly unaffected content of small micropores causative to such effect. These hypothesized mechanisms on pore-size dependent adsorption were further tested by comparing surface area–normalized adsorption data and adsorbent pore size distributions with and without the presence of adsorbed antibiotics. The findings indicate that efficient adsorption of bulky pharmaceuticals to AC can be achieved by enlarging the adsorbent pore size through suitable activation treatments.

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