Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 32, pp 32746–32758 | Cite as

Adsorptive desulfurization of dibenzothiophene (DBT) in model petroleum distillate using functionalized carbon nanotubes

  • Olawumi Oluwafolakemi Sadare
  • Michael Olawale DaramolaEmail author
Green Approaches for Materials, Wastes and Effluents Treatment


Industrial hydrodesulfurization method has not been efficient for removal of dibenzothiophene (DBT) from petroleum distillates. Therefore, in this current study, adsorptive desulfurization (investigated in batch mode) was carried out using functionalized carbon nanotubes (FCNTs) to reduce the amount of DBT in a model diesel. Different techniques, such as, scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX), were used to check the morphological structure and the elemental compositions of the adsorbent; Fourier transmission infrared (FTIR) was used to check the chemical functionalities of the adsorbent; and nitrogen physisorption at 77 K was used to check the surface area, pore size, and pore volume of the adsorbent. The results show that the FCNTs outperformed the non-functionalized carbon nanotubes (CNTs) during the desulfurization by about 10%, indicating the functionalization did improve the desulfurization performance of the CNTs. The % removal of DBT by the FCNTs and CNTs was 70.48 and 60.88%, respectively. It can be concluded that the acid treatment of CNTs enhanced its surface affinity for DBT, thus contributing to the improved adsorption performance of the adsorbent. The isotherm results show that Freundlich isotherm model described well the mechanism of the adsorption process for both CNTs and FCNTs. In addition, pseudo second-order kinetics describes the behavior of the adsorbents during the adsorption process. The results obtained in this study therefore show that functionalized CNTs could be efficient and potential adsorbent for removal of DBT in petroleum distillate (e.g., diesel), to meet up with the stringent policies regarding emission of sulfur oxides.


Adsorbent Adsorption Desulfurization Dibenzothiophene Functionalized carbon nanotubes Model diesel 



OOS acknowledges the financial support provided by L’Oréal–UNESCO Foundation for Women in Science, Sub-Saharan African Fellowship, for her PhD degree program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built EnvironmentUniversity of the WitwatersrandWitsSouth Africa

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