How to Enhance Activated Carbon Adsorption Capacity?

activated carbon info

Activated carbon is a highly versatile material that is produced by activated carbon plant. It is a type of carbon that has undergone oxygen treatment to produce millions of minuscule holes between the carbon atoms, creating a highly porous substance with a colossal surface area.

The significance of activated carbon is found in its capacity to adsorb pollutants from air, water, and other solutions. The process of a gas or liquid’s molecules being drawn to and sticking to the surface of a solid substance is known as adsorption. In the instance of activated carbon, the material’s tiny pores give the molecules a lot of surface area to adhere to, essentially trapping them inside the substance.

In many different industries, including the food and beverage sector, the pharmaceutical sector, and many others where the removal of impurities or unwanted substances is crucial, activated carbon is used extensively in air and water purification uses. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other air pollutants are frequently removed using activated carbon in air purification uses. Activated carbon is used in water purification processes to eliminate contaminants like chlorine and sediment.

The adsorption capacity of activated carbon is influenced by a variety of factors, including the surface area of the material, the pore size distribution, the type and number of functional groups present, and the nature of the contaminants being removed. Activated carbon with a larger surface area and a higher number of pores will generally have a higher adsorption capacity. The pore size distribution also plays a role, with larger pores being more effective at adsorbing larger molecules.

In addition, the type and number of functional groups present on the surface of the activated carbon can impact its adsorption capacity. Functional groups are chemical groups attached to the carbon atoms on the surface of the material that can interact with the molecules being adsorbed. Different types of functional groups can be added to the activated carbon to enhance its adsorption capacity for specific contaminants.

About Activated Carbon Adsorption Capacity

For removing impurities from air, water, and other solutions, activated carbon is a highly efficient adsorbent used in many industries. Selecting the proper kind of activated carbon for a given purpose requires careful consideration of adsorption capacity. In this article, we will dig further into the idea of activated carbon adsorption capacity and investigate approaches to comprehending and enhancing it.

Adsorption capacity is the amount of adsorbate (i.e., the substance being removed) that can be adsorbed per unit weight of the adsorbent (i.e., the activated carbon) under specific conditions. Understanding the adsorption capacity of activated carbon is crucial in selecting the right type of activated carbon for a specific application. For example, if the application requires the removal of large molecules, activated carbon with larger pore sizes may be needed to ensure a higher adsorption capacity.

Surface area, pore size, and functional groups are factors that influence activated carbon adsorption capacity. The surface area of activated carbon is critical in determining its adsorption capacity since it provides a larger surface area for the adsorbate to interact with. The pore size distribution also plays a significant role in determining the adsorption capacity, with larger pores providing more accessible sites for the adsorbate to interact with. The presence of functional groups on the surface of activated carbon can also enhance the adsorption capacity by creating specific interactions with the adsorbate.

absorption capacity of different materials activated carbon

Different types of activated carbon have varying adsorption capacities due to differences in their physical and chemical properties. Powdered activated carbon (PAC) is a finely divided form of activated carbon with high surface area, making it effective in applications where fast adsorption rates are required. Granular activated carbon (GAC) has larger particles and is commonly used in water treatment applications due to its ability to remove a range of contaminants. Activated carbon fibers (ACF) have a high surface area and are commonly used in air purification applications where removal of small particles is required.

In order to evaluate the performance of activated carbon in a given application, its adsorption capability must be measured. The iodine number, which calculates the amount of iodine that the activated carbon can adsorb, is a typical technique for determining the adsorption capacity of activated carbon. The textile industry frequently employs the methylene blue adsorption test, another technique for gauging adsorption capacity, to ascertain how well activated carbon removes colors.

It is critical to take the particular application and contaminants being eliminated into account when assessing the adsorption capacity of activated carbon. For particular contaminants, different types of activated carbon are more or less efficient. For instance, activated carbon that is better at adsorbing VOCs might not be as efficient at removing chlorinated substances. Therefore, choosing the appropriate type of activated carbon requires a thorough knowledge of the application and contaminants.

Enhancing Activated Carbon Adsorption Capacity

Highly porous material called activated carbon is frequently used to remove impurities from different solutions. An essential element in identifying activated carbon’s effectiveness in a given application is its capacity for adsorption. This paper will examine various techniques for increasing the adsorption capacity of activated carbon.

There are several methods for improving activated carbon adsorption capacity, including physical and chemical activation, impregnation, and surface modification.

Physical Activation Techniques

To physically activate carbon, high-temperature substances like steam, CO2, or air are used to pore the material. The most frequent bodily activation technique is steam. A highly porous substance with a substantial surface area is produced when the surface of the carbon interacts with the steam and removes impurities. Another physical activation method that yields activated carbon with more micropore volume and surface area than steam activation is CO2 activation.

activated carbon plant

Chemical Activation Techniques

Through the process of chemical activation, pores in the activated carbon are created by using a chemical agent, usually an acid or a base. Potassium hydroxide and phosphoric acid are the two most frequently employed chemical activators. A high mesopore volume and a sizable surface area are produced by phosphoric acid activation in activated carbon. A high micropore volume and a big surface area are produced by potassium hydroxide activation in activated carbon.

Impregnation Methods

To increase the activated carbon’s ability to absorb substances, impregnation entails the adding of metal oxides or metal chlorides. This technique frequently makes use of metal compounds like iron oxide and manganese oxide. Impregnation also uses metal chlorides like zinc chloride and copper chloride. The impregnation procedure increases the activated carbon’s adsorption capability by adding new active sites to its surface.

Surface Modification Techniques

In order to raise the amount of functional groups on the surface of activated carbon, surface modification entails changing the surface chemistry of the material. Two frequently used methods of surface alteration are plasma treatment and chemical functionalization. The process of plasma treatment includes exposing the activated carbon to a plasma, which produces a highly reactive surface with numerous functional groups. Chemical functionalization is the process of adding functional groups to the surface of activated carbon through chemical processes or physical adsorption.

Advantages and Limitations of Each Method

Each approach has benefits and drawbacks. Although physical activation is a quick and inexpensive process, the activated carbon it produces might not have the required properties. Chemical activation is a more complicated and pricey method, but it can create activated carbon with specific properties. The simple process of impregnation can increase the adsorption power of activated carbon, but it also has the potential to add unwanted impurities. Activated carbon’s adsorption capacity can be considerably increased by surface modification, but doing so calls for specialized tools and knowledge.

Potential Applications

The method chosen for enhancing activated carbon adsorption capacity will depend on the specific application. For example, physical activation may be suitable for air purification applications, while chemical activation may be more appropriate for wastewater treatment. Impregnation may be useful for removing specific contaminants such as mercury or arsenic. Surface modification may be useful for enhancing the adsorption of certain gases, such as carbon dioxide.


In summary, activated carbon is a versatile material with high adsorption capacity, making it an essential tool in various industries, including environmental, pharmaceutical, and food processing. The adsorption capacity of activated carbon is influenced by several factors, such as surface area, pore size, and functional groups. Different types of activated carbon, including powdered activated carbon (PAC), granular activated carbon (GAC), and activated carbon fibers (ACF), have varying adsorption capacities and are suited for specific applications.

To enhance activated carbon adsorption capacity, several methods can be used, including physical and chemical activation, impregnation, and surface modification. Physical activation methods such as steam activation and CO2 activation can increase surface area, while chemical activation techniques, such as phosphoric acid and potassium hydroxide activation, can create more functional groups. Impregnation methods can improve adsorption capacity by adding metal oxides or metal chlorides, while surface modification techniques like plasma treatment and chemical functionalization can increase the number of functional groups.

Future research opportunities to improve activated carbon adsorption capacity include exploring novel activation techniques, optimizing impregnation methods, and developing new surface modification techniques. With further advancements, activated carbon can continue to be an effective and sustainable solution for removing contaminants from air, water, and other solutions.

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