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Adsorption mechanism of metal ions on activated carbon

  • Ayaka Kuroki
  • Megumi Hiroto
  • Yoshitomo Urushihara
  • Toshihide HorikawaEmail author
  • Ken-Ichiro Sotowa
  • Jesús Rafael Alcántara Avila


Environmental pollution, particularly that caused by the presence of heavy metals in wastewater, is a serious problem. Therefore, heavy metals should be prevented from reaching the natural environment or removed from polluted wastewater. Adsorption is a very economical, simple, effective, highly versatile process for removing harmful pollutants from wastewater. In this study, six commercial activated carbon (AC) samples were used to evaluate the adsorption of Pb2+, Ni2+, and Zn2+. We investigated the correlation between the adsorption of metal ions on AC and the pore or surface properties of AC. Large quantities of ions in the order [Pb2+] >> [Zn2+], [Ni2+] were adsorbed on all AC samples. The results showed that the Pb2+ adsorption capacity per unit Dubinin–Polanyi (DP) surface area (SDP) is correlated with the graphite/defect (G/D) ratio of AC; the G/D ratio was analyzed via Raman spectroscopy. The adsorbability of Pb2+ on AC per unit SDP was higher in AC with a larger G/D ratio. Moreover, we found that hard and soft acids and bases contribute to adsorption. The observed correlation facilitates the determination of the adsorption capacity of Pb2+ on AC using the G/D ratio without any adsorption test.


Ion adsorption Activated carbon Heavy metal ions HSAB theory 



This work was partially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research, Grant No. JP16K14461.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1013 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Technology, Industrial and Social SciencesThe University of TokushimaTokushimaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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