Specific adsorption sites and conditions derived by thermal decomposition of activated carbons and adsorbed carbamazepine

Daniel Dittmann, Paul Eisentraut, Caroline Goedecke, Yosri Wiesner, Martin Jekel, Aki Sebastian Ruhl, Ulrike Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The adsorption of organic micropollutants onto activated carbon is a favourable solution for the treatment of drinking water and wastewater. However, these adsorption processes are not sufficiently understood to allow for the appropriate prediction of removal processes. In this study, thermogravimetric analysis, alongside evolved gas analysis, is proposed for the characterisation of micropollutants adsorbed on activated carbon. Varying amounts of carbamazepine were adsorbed onto three different activated carbons, which were subsequently dried, and their thermal decomposition mechanisms examined. The discovery of 55 different pyrolysis products allowed differentiations to be made between specific adsorption sites and conditions. However, the same adsorption mechanisms were found for all samples, which were enhanced by inorganic constituents and oxygen containing surface groups. Furthermore, increasing the loadings led to the evolution of more hydrated decomposition products, whilst parts of the carbamazepine molecules were also integrated into the carbon structure. It was also found that the chemical composition, especially the degree of dehydration of the activated carbon, plays an important role in the adsorption of carbamazepine. Hence, it is thought that the adsorption sites may have a higher adsorption energy for specific adsorbates, when the activated carbon can then potentially increase its degree of graphitisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6695
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thankfully acknowledge Frederick Zietzschmann for providing the activated carbons and the information about their characterisation, as well as Ute Kalbe, Jutta Jakobs and Christiane Weimann for very kindly XRF, LC-MS/MS and SEM measurements, respectively. We thank Glen J Smales for the very helpful proofreading. Last but not least we acknowledge support by the German Research Foundation and the Open Access Publication Fund of TU Berlin.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


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