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Adsorption of selected pollutants from aqueous solutions onto modified carbon nanotubes.

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The significance of wastewater remediation before its discharge into the aquatic environment cannot be overemphasized. Adsorption has been proven to be effective for the removal of toxic pollutants from industrial effluents and/or wastewater, due to its simplicity in operation and the possibility of regenerating sorbents for reuse. This concept was exploited to achieve the effective removal of toxic contaminants from simulated wastewater. Carbon nanotubes, a fascinating member of the carbon family, possessing unique physical and chemical properties, have been reported as superior adsorbents for wastewater remediation purposes. Their large specific surface areas and porosity, hollow and layered structures, and great mechanical and thermal stability, makes them good candidates as sorbents for wastewater treatment and contamination control. This thesis interrogates the efficacy of carbon-structured nanomaterials containing multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) as the backbone, for the removal of divalent metal ions and organic contaminants from aqueous solutions. In this work, a novel adsorbent was successfully synthesized by incorporating a nitrogen-donor ligand (4-phenyl-2, 2':6', 2''-terpyridine) onto MWCNTs to afford nitrogen-functionalized MWCNTs (MWCNT-ttpy). The effectiveness of this sorbent towards the removal of divalent metal ions (Pb2+, Cd2+, Zn2+, Hg2+ and Cu2+), and organic contaminants (bisphenol A and ibuprofen) from aqueous solutions was investigated. The adsorption uptake of these pollutants onto MWCNT-ttpy was compared with that of acid-functionalized MWCNTs (MWCNT-COOH) to determine the sorbent with best removal efficiencies. Further, magnetic nanocomposites containing cobalt ferrite nanoparticles and MWCNT-COOH were synthesized in varying ratios to investigate their effectiveness for the removal of rhodamine B from aqueous solutions. All nanomaterials synthesized were characterized by means of TEM, SEM, TGA, BET, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy before application. Batch adsorption experiments were conducted to determine the effects of pH, contact time, adsorbent dose, initial adsorbate concentration and temperature for each sorption process in order to evaluate the best experimental conditions necessary for pollutant removal. The experimental data were fitted into the pseudo-first order, pseudo-second order, intraparticle diffusion and Elovich models to determine the dynamics and rate-determining step of the adsorption processes. The mechanism of the process was investigated by fitting the experimental data into various two- and three-parameter isotherms. iii The application of MWCNT-ttpy for the removal of both heavy metal ions and organic pollutants demonstrated much enhanced uptakes than MWCNT-COOH. The incorporation of nitrogen onto MWCNT-COOH significantly improved the affinity towards the removal of metal ions, forming strong electrostatic and coordination interactions between the active sites on the adsorbent and metal ion cations. Increasing hydrophobicity of MWCNT-ttpy over MWCNT-COOH accounted for the enhanced removal of bisphenol A and ibuprofen, since their uptake is primarily decided on by the hydrophobic nature of sorbates. Further, the application of both MWCNT-COOH and magnetic carbon nanotube-cobalt ferrites nanocomposites showed good removal efficiencies for rhodamine B from aqueous solution, with the best uptake achieved by using MWCNT-COOH. However, the magnetic nanocomposites give an advantage of separation under magnetic influence, hence, limiting inconveniences encountered during separation. The kinetics of adsorption were mostly described by the pseudo-second order and the Elovich models, while the equilibrium data were best described by the Langmuir and the Sips isotherm models. The thermodynamic parameters of adsorption, namely, the change in Gibbs energy (ΔGº), change in enthalpy (ΔHº) and change in entropy (ΔSº) were estimated for each adsorption process. The adsorption of all adsorbates were endothermic in nature except in the case of ibuprofen and Cd2+ which exhibited an exothermic process. All adsorption processes described in this study were spontaneous, implying the feasibility of the sorbents for the removal of targeted pollutants from wastewater. Desorption studies aimed at regenerating the adsorbents for reuse were successful. High recovery efficiencies between 60-95% were achieved by using eluents such as 0.1 mol dm-3 HCl for metal ions, and ethanol and acetone/acetic acid for organic contaminants. This process averts the production of secondary pollutants, supporting the reutilization of both the adsorbents and the adsorbates. Thus, all adsorbents used in this study were efficiently regenerated by using simple conventional chemicals and can be reused for the removal of targeted pollutants from aqueous solutions. The competitive adsorption of Pb2+, Cd2+, Zn2+ and Cu2+ and the binary adsorption of bisphenol A and ibuprofen onto MWCNT-ttpy was also investigated in both single-solute and multi-component adsorption systems. The sorption of metal ions onto MWCNT-ttpy was in the sequence Cd > Pb > Cu > Zn and Pb > Cu > Cd > Zn in single-solute and multicomponent systems, respectively, while the removal of ibuprofen was higher than that of bisphenol A in a typical binary adsorption system. For the first time, the competitive sorption of organic contaminants (bisphenol A and ibuprofen) in the presence of metal ions (Cd2+ and Pb2+) onto nitrogen-functionalized MWCNT was investigated. The iv study revealed a cooperative mechanism of adsorption between metal ions and organic pollutants in a multicomponent system. Thus, the novel adsorbent proved effective for the removal of metal ions, bisphenol A and ibuprofen in both single-solute and multicomponent adsorption systems. MWCNT-ttpy also proved remarkably effective for removing three heavy metal ions, Pb2+, Cu2+ and Zn2+, in three different real-life water samples, obtained from the Umgeni River. Removal efficiencies greater than 95% were achieved for all three metal ions. The modification of MWCNTs to afford both nitrogen-functionalized MWCNTs and cobalt-ferrite/MWCNT nanocomposites was successful. These sorbents exhibited excellent pollutant removal abilities, attributed to improved textural characteristics of the nanomaterials synthesized. The application of these sorbents for wastewater and industrial effluent remediation should be further explored for prudent management of water resources.


Doctor of Philosophy. University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban. 2015