Adsorption of dissolved natural organic matter by modified activated carbons

Wei Cheng, Seyed A. Dastgheib, Tanju Karanfil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adsorption of dissolved natural organic matter (DOM) by virgin and modified granular activated carbons (GACs) was studied. DOM samples were obtained from two water treatment plants before (i.e., raw water) and after coagulation/flocculation/sedimentation processes (i.e., treated water). A granular activated carbon (GAC) was modified by high temperature helium or ammonia treatment, or iron impregnation followed by high temperature ammonia treatment. Two activated carbon fibers (ACFs) were also used, with no modification, to examine the effect of carbon porosity on DOM adsorption. Size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA 254) were employed to characterize the DOMs before and after adsorption. Iron-impregnated (HDFe) and ammonia-treated (HDN) activated carbons showed significantly higher DOM uptakes than the virgin GAC. The enhanced DOM uptake by HDFe was due to the presence of iron species on the carbon surface. The higher uptake of HDN was attributed to the enlarged carbon pores and basic surface created during ammonia treatment. The SEC and SUVA254 results showed no specific selectivity in the removal of different DOM components as a result of carbon modification. The removal of DOM from both raw and treated waters was negligible by ACF10, having 96% of its surface area in pores smaller than 1 nm. Small molecular weight (MW) DOM components were preferentially removed by ACF20H, having 33% of its surface area in 1-3 nm pores. DOM components with MWs larger than 1600, 2000, and 2700 Da of Charleston raw, Charleston-treated, and Spartanburg-treated waters, respectively, were excluded from the pores of ACF20H. In contrast to carbon fibers, DOM components from entire MW range were removed from waters by virgin and modified GACs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2281-2290
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Activated carbon
  • Dissolved natural organic matter (DOM)
  • Size exclusion chromatography (SEC)
  • Specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA)
  • Surface chemistry
  • Surface modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Adsorption of dissolved natural organic matter by modified activated carbons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this