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Title: Investigation of the adsorption performance of polystyrenic resin and GAC for the removal of BTEX compounds from industrial wastewater
Authors: Makhathini, Thobeka Pearl 
Issue Date: 2015
Industrial wastewater containing organic compounds and/or substances is an increasing problem due to its increasing toxic threat to humans and the environment. The removal of organic compounds has become an imperative issue due to stringent measures that are introduced by the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa to enforce regulations concerning wastes that emanate from petrochemical industries. Thus, wastewater containing these compounds must be well understood so as to device adequate treatment processes.
In this study, the adsorptive capacity of PAD 910 polystyrenic resin originating from China and granular activated carbon (GAC) was evaluated for the removal of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and isomers of xylene (BTEX) from an aqueous solution. Batch studies were performed to evaluate the effects of various experimental parameters such as mixing strength, contact time, internal diffusion, adsorbates and initial concentration on the removal of the BTEX compounds. The experiments were conducted at the mixing strength of 180 rpm, in order to comfortably assume negligible external diffusion. The equilibrium isotherms for the adsorption of the adsorbates on the PAD 910 polystyrenic resin were analyzed by the Langmuir, Freundlich and linearized Dubinin-Radushkevich models at a pH of 5.86. The Langmuir model fitted the data adequately; this result was supported by the work done by Site (2001) which concluded that the Langmuir is the most practical model in representing the adsorption of aromatic compounds. The Langmuir model indicated that resin has the highest adsorption capacity of 79.44 mg/g and GAC has 66.2 mg/g. Resin was found to adsorb 98% of benzene, 88% of toluene, 59% of ethylbenzene, 84% m-;p-xylene and 90% o-xylene at an initial concentration of 14.47 mg/l.
BTEX adsorption was a two-stage process: a short, fast initial period then followed by a longer, slow period corresponding to the intra-particle diffusion of BTEX molecules in macropores and micropores. The adsorption capacity was determined by total surface area accessible to BTEX and the availability of active surface chemical groups. The dependence of adsorption capacity on the surface of the two adsorbents and temperature was observed, suggesting the chemical nature of the BTEX adsorption. The interaction between BTEX/activated carbon was however weak and energetically similar to that of hydrogen
bonds. Generally, BTEX adsorption was an exothermic process that combined physisorption and chemisorption. The PAD 910 polystyrenic resin had a greater specific surface area (SSA) of 1040 m2/g which yielded in higher capacity compared to GAC which had a low SSA of 930 m2/g. The normalized adsorption capacity was found to be higher for PAD 910 polystyrenic resin than GAC (0.66 and 0.27 mg/m2 respectively) which suggests that the resin has a good potential of the adsorbent for removing BTEX compound compared to GAC.
Fixed bed columns were used to evaluate the dynamic adsorption behaviour of BTEX/PAD 910 polystyrenic resin through a dynamic column approach. The performance of small-scale fixed bed columns, each containing PAD 910 polystyrenic resin and the other containing GAC were evaluated using 14.47 mg/L of BTEX concentration. The columns with 32 mm diameter, studied bed depths of 40, 80 and 120 mm and flow rate of 6 ml/min were used in order to obtain experimental breakthrough curves. The bed depth service time (BDST) model was used to analyze the experimental data and design parameters like adsorption capacity, adsorption rate and service time at 20% and 60% breakthrough. BDST was also used to predict the service times of columns operated under different influent concentrations and flow rates to produce theoretical values that were compared to the experimental values.
Adsorption model by Dubinin and colleagues (Dubinin, 1960), based on the theory of volume filling micropores was used to fit the measured adsorption isotherms. Agreement between the modelled and experimental results for GAC and PAD 910 polystyrenic resin using Dubinin-Radushkevich equation generally improved with increasing the surface area and produced reasonable fits of the adsorption isotherms for both GAC and PAD 910 polystyrenic resin.
Granular activated carbon had a lesser performance compared to the PAD 910 polystyrenic resin, in terms of kinetic studies, and this finding was attributed to the pore structure which made accessibility of BTEX molecules more difficult in this study. The results indicate that PAD 910 polystyrenic resin show potential as an adsorbent for removing low concentrations of BTEX from wastewater. It is suggested that necessary treatment of GAC might improve the performance of this adsorbent by creating more mesopore volume and fraction which is essential to enhance adsorption rate. A substantial different SSA could be achieved through high porosity development in GAC by using templating method with a higher potassium hydroxide mixture ratio.
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2015.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Engineering and Built Environment)

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