Effects of sulfur, nitric acid, and thermal treatments on the properties and mercury adsorption of activated carbons from bituminous coals

Hsing Cheng Hsi, Mark J. Rood, Massoud Rostam-Abadi, Yu Min Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The influences of sulfur, HNO3, and thermal treatments on the properties and Hg adsorption of activated carbon (AC) derived from bituminous coals were evaluated. These ACs were impregnated with either polysulfide or elemental sulfur at 120, 200, and 600°C. Additional ACs were treated with HNO3at 95°C to incorporate oxygen functionalities, and then subjected to temperature-programmed desorption to 950°C to remove surface oxygen groups and create nascent active sites on the AC surface. Polysulfide and elemental sulfur impregnation at < 200°C did not improve Hg0adsorption. However, improvement in HgCl2adsorption by up to 97% was observed. Elemental sulfur impregnation at 600°C enhanced Hg0and HgCl2adsorption by up to 42% and 404%, respectively, for ACs derived from a low-organic-sulfur coal. Improvements in Hg0adsorption for ACs from high-organic-sulfur coals were not observed after sulfur impregnation. HNO3and thermal treatments reduced Hg-active groups such as sulfur. Oxygen surface groups and the nascent carbon sites appeared to be more reactive towards other flue gas components than Hg, because HNO3and thermal treatments led to a reduction in Hg0and HgCl2adsorption. These results suggest that AC's physical and chemical properties after sulfur treatment influence Hg0adsorption, while HgCl2adsorption is mainly affected by AC's chemical characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)730-738
Number of pages9
JournalAerosol and Air Quality Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2013



  • Adsorbent
  • HNO
  • Mercury
  • Sulfur
  • Thermal treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution

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