Activated carbon (AC) is a special form of carbon commonly used to remove contaminants from water, air, fluids, and many other industrial usages. It is processed to be surface-active in order to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area and make it suitable for adsorption. This high degree of microporosity increases the surface area of activated carbon to exceed 2500 m2 of 1 gram of AC.
Activated carbon (AC) is prepared from different natural and waste products and from a variety of carbonaceous source materials such as coconut shells, woods, olive pits, anthracite, and others. However, any organic material with a high carbon content can be used to prepare activated carbons (AC) through physical modification, thermal decomposition, and chemical reactions.
Activated carbon has hundreds of applications in a wide range of industries including but not limited to these common main uses:
- Air purification
- Water purification
- Solvents recovery
- Gold purification
- Metal extraction
- Medical uses
- Wastewater treatments
- Food processing
- Agricultural uses
- Fuel storage
However, let us discuss the main applications of activated carbon (AC) in water treatments and purifications.
Activated Carbon (AC) for Water Purification
Activated carbon is one of the most used products in the water treatment industry because Its highly porous structure with a large surface area makes it an efficient adsorbent for many contaminants.
Activated carbon can be used in a wide range of water treatment applications, but it is a critical material used in municipal and industrial water treatment plants. Thus, below are the main categories of activated carbon use in water purification applications:
- Groundwater remediation
- Potable water purification
- Wastewater treatment
- Process water purification
Below is a simple description of each application.
Activated carbon removes impurities in contaminated groundwater remediation and landfill water treatment applications. Activated carbon is used typically as a polishing step in the final treatment process to remove:
- Dissolved organic compounds
- Non-biodegradable, or poorly biodegradable, compounds
If wastewater is properly treated upstream, granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration is a reliable and cost-effective purification technology for waste streams that frequently contain complex mixtures of chemical compounds. After a certain service time, spent GAC is usually replaced with thermally reactivated, or new, GAC.
Potable Water Purification
Water utilities provide clean, safe water to potable water networks. Activated carbons play an important role in helping water authorities to provide potable water that is clean, safe to drink, and free of unpleasant tastes, colors, and odors to all people living in that serviced area.
Activated carbons are used to remove natural and synthetic organic pollutants and suspended solids from surface and groundwater sources, in addition to the potentially harmful disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and residual oxidizing agents (ex. chlorine) formed during the potable water treatment processes.
Both powdered activated carbon (PAC) and granular activated carbon (GAC) can be used for potable water treatments which should meet exact purity standards, including the requirements of the United States Food Chemicals Codex and the EN 12915 (EU) requirements for leachable metals, poly-aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and cyanide. However, each authority in different countries has specific drinking water standards that should be met.
Activated carbon is used as a polishing step in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) to remove dissolved organic and non-biodegradable compounds following physical and biological pre-treatment processes to remove solids and biological oxygen demand (BOD).
Granular activated carbon (GAC) is used in fixed filter beds, standalone adsorbers, or in a moving bed configuration, while powdered activated carbon (PAC) is typically dosed into a coagulation/flocculation tank or applied in combination with an active sludge process.
- Municipal wastewater treatment: Residential and commercial wastewaters tend to contain concentrated organic wastes that are readily biodegradable in a traditional municipal wastewater treatment plant. Activated carbon can help municipal wastewater treatment plants meet stringent, regulatory-driven effluent water quality criteria by removing pathogens, oxygen demanding compounds, and inorganic and synthetic organic chemicals.
- Industrial wastewater treatment: Industrial wastewaters can contain man-made compounds that are often not readily biodegradable and require special treatment processes. Activated carbon is used to adsorb non-biodegradable compounds, or when the wastewater stream is too dilute to support a biological system of beneficial microorganisms that break down organic wastes. These industrial wastewater streams are found in the chemical, refinery, textile, and general manufacturing sectors and may contain a range of organics, colorants, phenolic compounds, and chlorinated organics. GAC and PAC-based processes are applied depending on the composition of wastewater and treatment targets.
Process Water Purification
Many industries and process applications depend on our granular activated carbon (GAC) to purify water in order to meet stringent industrial process requirements, including beverage production, energy, life sciences, and microelectronics.
These industries rely on municipal tap water, which often contains organic contaminants. Among other things, these contaminants can negatively impact an industrial plant’s efficiency and assets, the safety of water used to treat hemodialysis patients, the purity of water required to manufacture pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, and photovoltaics, and simply the taste of bottled water.
For these critical applications, activated carbon is recognized as the most reliable and best available technology to remove organic and chemical contaminants in order to meet process water purity requirements for a wide range of applications such as:
Bottled water, beverages, and breweries
Polishing, oxidation, and reduction of residual chlorine, chloramines, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen peroxide from municipal water treatment plants.
Refineries and power plants
High purity and consistent condensate, guaranteed low silica leaching levels to eliminate heat transfer resistance in boilers, efficient removal of mineral oil from condensate, and maximized return of condensate to boiler’s feed water.
Pharmaceutical: For the removal of chlorine, chloramine, and organics to help protect downstream reverse osmosis (RO) membranes and provide infection-free water for drug discovery, development, and manufacturing.
Microelectronics: For the removal of particulates, ionic contaminants, inorganics and adjusts total organic carbon (TOC) levels to less than parts per billion (ppb) levels, thereby helping customers improve yields and lower life cycle costs in the semiconductor, flat panel display, and photovoltaics industries.
Hemodialysis: For the removal of organic contaminants, chlorine, and chloramine from water, a critical step to providing ultrapure water for use in hemodialysis treatment for patients with compromised kidney function.
Aquaculture and mariculture
Adsorption of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), hormones, and medicinal residues emanating from fish farms in freshwater and saltwater environments.
Swimming pool water
Adsorption of chloramines, disinfection byproducts, and chlorine-nitrogen compounds that are irritating to swimmers (eyes, nose, breathing), and helps meet regulatory standards for potentially harmful contaminants.
Finally, don’t hesitate to contact us for any inquiry related to activated carbons because represents leading manufacturers of activated carbon such as NORIT Activated Carbon in specific countries in the world.
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