Activated carbons for the removal of heavy metal ions: A systematic review of recent literature focused on lead and arsenic ions

Eleni A. Deliyanni 1 , George Z. Kyzas 1 , Kostas S. Triantafyllidis 1 , and Kostas A. Matis 1
  • 1 Division of Chemical Technology & Industrial Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, GR-54124 Thessaloniki, Greece


This work is a systematic review of the literature over the past decade of the application of activated carbon (microporous or mesoporous) as adsorbents for the removal of heavy metals, focusing especially on lead (Pb) and arsenic (As) ions from the aqueous phase. Classical examples from our lab are also given. Activated carbon is known to provide a high surface area for adsorption. Generally, surface modification is typically required, such as oxidation, treatment with ammonia or even impregnation with ferric ion, etc. and the adsorbent material may originate from various sources. The pristine materials, after modification and those after batch-wise adsorption, were characterized by available techniques (BET analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, thermal analyses, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy). Adsorption isotherms, thermodynamics and kinetics of the process are also discussed. Selected studies from the literature are examined in comparison with other adsorbents. The role of chemistry in the metals adsorption/removal was investigated.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • [1] or-reactivation (access 28 Aug 2014),

  • [2] reactivation/faq (access 28 Aug 2014),

  • [3] Ahn C.K., Park D., Woo S.H.,Park J.M., Removal of cationic heavy metal from aqueous solution by activated carbon impregnated with anionic surfactants, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 164, 1130- 1136.

  • [4] Amirnia S., Margaritis A.,Ray M., Adsorption of mixtures of toxic metal ions using non-viable cells of saccharomyces cerevisiae, Adsorpt. Sci. Technol., 2012, 30, 43-63.

  • [5] Amuda O.S., Giwa A.A.,Bello I.A., Removal of heavy metal from industrial wastewater using modified activated coconut shell carbon, Biochem. Eng. J., 2007, 36, 174-181.

  • [6] Asouhidou D.D., Triantafyllidis K.S., Lazaridis N.K., Matis K.A., Kim S.S.,Pinnavaia T.J., Sorption of reactive dyes from aqueous solutions by ordered hexagonal and disordered mesoporous carbons, Micropor. Mesopor. Mater., 2009, 117, 257-267.

  • [7] Babel S.,Kurniawan T.A., Cr(VI) removal from synthetic wastewater using coconut shell charcoal and commercial activated carbon modified with oxidizing agents and/or chitosan, Chemosphere, 2004, 54, 951-967.

  • [8] Baccar R., Bouzid J., Feki M.,Montiel A., Preparation of activated carbon from Tunisian olive-waste cakes and its application for adsorption of heavy metal ions, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 162, 1522-1529.

  • [9] Baniamerian M.J., Moradi S.E., Noori A.,Salahi H., The effect of surface modification on heavy metal ion removal from water by carbon nanoporous adsorbent, Appl. Surf. Sci., 2009, 256, 1347-1354.

  • [10] Bilal M., Shah J.A., Ashfaq T., Gardazi S.M.H., Tahir A.A., Pervez A., et al., Waste biomass adsorbents for copper removal from industrial wastewater—A review, J. Hazard. Mater., 2013, 263, Part 2, 322-333.

  • [11] Budaeva A.D.,Zoltoev E.V., Porous structure and sorption properties of nitrogen-containing activated carbon, Fuel, 2010, 89, 2623-2627.

  • [12] Câmpean A., Tertiş M.,Sǎndulescu R., Voltammetric determination of some alkaloids and other compounds in pharmaceuticals and urine using an electrochemically activated glassy carbon electrode, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2011, 9, 688-700.

  • [13] Chang Q., Lin W.,Ying W.C., Preparation of iron-impregnated granular activated carbon for arsenic removal from drinking water, J. Hazard. Mater., 2010, 184, 515-522.

  • [14] Chen W., Parette R., Zou J., Cannon F.S.,Dempsey B.A., Arsenic removal by iron-modified activated carbon, Water Res., 2007, 41, 1851-1858.

  • [15] Chuang C.L., Fan M., Xu M., Brown R.C., Sung S., Saha B., et al., Adsorption of arsenic(V) by activated carbon prepared from oat hulls, Chemosphere, 2005, 61, 478-483.

  • [16] Dabioch M., Skorek R., Kita A., Janoska P., Pytlakowska K., Zerzucha P., et al., A study on adsorption of metals by activated carbon in a large-scale (municipal) process of surface water purification, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2013, 11, 742-753.

  • [17] Deliyanni E., Arabatzidou A., Tzoupanos N.,Matis K., Adsorption of Pb2+ using mesoporous activated carbon and its effects on surface modifications, Adsorpt. Sci. Technol., 2012, 30, 627-645.

  • [18] Deliyanni E.,Bandosz T.J., Effect of carbon surface modification with dimethylamine on reactive adsorption of NOx, Langmuir, 2011, 27, 1837-1843.

  • [19] Deliyanni E.,Bandosz T.J., Importance of carbon surface chemistry in development of iron-carbon composite adsorbents for arsenate removal, J. Hazard. Mater., 2011, 186, 667-674.

  • [20] Deliyanni E., Bandosz T.J.,Matis K.A., Impregnation of activated carbon by iron oxyhydroxide and its effect on arsenate removal, J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol., 2013, 88, 1058-1066.

  • [21] Deliyanni E.A., Peleka E.N.,Matis K.A., Modeling the sorption of metal ions from aqueous solution by iron-based adsorbents, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 172, 550-558.

  • [22] Deng L., Su Y., Su H., Wang X.,Zhu X., Sorption and desorption of lead (II) from wastewater by green algae Cladophora fascicularis, J. Hazard. Mater., 2007, 143, 220-225.

  • [23] Depci T., Kul A.R.,Önal Y., Competitive adsorption of lead and zinc from aqueous solution on activated carbon prepared from Van apple pulp: Study in single- and multi-solute systems, Chem. Eng. J., 2012, 200-202, 224-236.

  • [24] Eliyas A.E., Ljutzkanov L., Stambolova I.D., Blaskov V.N., Vassilev S.V., Razkazova-Velkova E.N., et al., Visible light photocatalytic activity of TiO2 deposited on activated carbon, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2013, 11, 464-470.

  • [25] Fan L., Chen Y., Wang L.,Jiang W., Adsorption of Pb(II) ions from aqueous solutions by pyrolusite-modified activated carbon prepared from sewage sludge, Adsorpt. Sci. Technol., 2011, 29, 495-506.

  • [26] Fierro V., Muñiz G., Gonzalez-Sánchez G., Ballinas M.L.,Celzard A., Arsenic removal by iron-doped activated carbons prepared by ferric chloride forced hydrolysis, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 168, 430-437.

  • [27] Fu F.,Wang Q., Removal of heavy metal ions from wastewaters: A review, J. Environ. Manage., 2011, 92, 407-418.

  • [28] Gu Z., Deng B.,Yang J., Synthesis and evaluation of ironcontaining ordered mesoporous carbon (FeOMC) for arsenic adsorption, Micropor. Mesopor. Mater., 2007, 102, 265-273.

  • [29] Gupta V.K., Ganjali M.R., Nayak A., Bhushan B.,Agarwal S., Enhanced heavy metals removal and recovery by mesoporous adsorbent prepared from waste rubber tire, Chem. Eng. J., 2012, 197, 330-342.

  • [30] Hernández-Montoya V., Mendoza-Castillo D.I., Bonilla-Petriciolet A., Montes-Morán M.A.,Pérez-Cruz M.A., Role of the pericarp of Carya illinoinensis as biosorbent and as precursor of activated carbon for the removal of lead and acid blue 25 in aqueous solutions, Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 2011, 92, 143-151.

  • [31] Huang C.-C., Li H.-S.,Chen C.-H., Effect of surface acidic oxides of activated carbon on adsorption of ammonia, J. Hazard. Mater., 2008, 159, 523-527.

  • [32] Jasiñska J., Krzyžyñska B.,Kozłowski M., Influence of activated carbon modifications on their catalytic activity in methanol and ethanol conversion reactions, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2011, 9, 925-931.

  • [33] Jiang J.Q.,Ashekuzzaman S.M., Development of novel inorganic adsorbent for water treatment, Curr. Opinion Chem. Eng., 2012, 1, 191-199.

  • [34] Kalavathy M.H., Karthikeyan T., Rajgopal S.,Miranda L.R., Kinetic and isotherm studies of Cu(II) adsorption onto H3PO 4-activated rubber wood sawdust, J. Colloid Interface Sci., 2005, 292, 354-362.

  • [35] Kasnejad M.H., Esfandiari A., Kaghazchi T.,Asasian N., Effect of pre-oxidation for introduction of nitrogen containing functional groups into the structure of activated carbons and its influence on Cu (II) adsorption, J. Taiwan Inst. Chem. Eng., 2012, 43, 736-740.

  • [36] Kim E.A., Seyfferth A.L., Fendorf S.,Luthy R.G., Immobilization of Hg(II) in water with polysulfide-rubber (PSR) polymer-coated activated carbon, Water Res., 2011, 45, 453-460.

  • [37] Kyzas G.Z., Deliyanni E.A.,Matis K.A., Graphene oxide and its application as an adsorbent for wastewater treatment, J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol., 2014, 89, 196-205.

  • [38] Kyzas G.Z.,Kostoglou M., Green adsorbents for wastewaters: A critical review, Materials, 2014, 7, 333-364.

  • [39] Lalhmunsiama, Lee S.M.,Tiwari D., Manganese oxide immobilized activated carbons in the remediation of aqueous wastes contaminated with copper(II) and lead(II), Chem. Eng. J., 2013, 225, 128-137.

  • [40] Le Leuch L.M.,Bandosz T.J., The role of water and surface acidity on the reactive adsorption of ammonia on modified activated carbons, Carbon, 2007, 45, 568-578.

  • [41] Lehmann M., Zouboulis A.I.,Matis K.A., Removal of metal ions from dilute aqueous solutions: A comparative study of inorganic sorbent materials, Chemosphere, 1999, 39, 881-892.

  • [42] Li Y., Du Q., Wang X., Zhang P., Wang D., Wang Z., et al., Removal of lead from aqueous solution by activated carbon prepared from Enteromorpha prolifera by zinc chloride activation, J. Hazard. Mater., 2010, 183, 583-589.

  • [43] Lo S.-F., Wang S.-Y., Tsai M.-J.,Lin L.-D., Adsorption capacity and removal efficiency of heavy metal ions by Moso and Ma bamboo activated carbons, Chem. Eng. Res. Des., 2012, 90, 1397-1406.

  • [44] Lorenzen L., van Deventer J.S.J.,Landi W.M., Factors affecting the mechanism of the adsorption of arsenic species on activated carbon, Miner. Eng., 1995, 8, 557-569.

  • [45] Machida M., Fotoohi B., Amamo Y., Ohba T., Kanoh H.,Mercier L., Cadmium(II) adsorption using functional mesoporous silica and activated carbon, J. Hazard. Mater., 2012, 221-222, 220-227.

  • [46] Marsh H.,Reinoso-Rodriguez F.: 2012, Activated carbon, London, UK, Elsevier.

  • [47] Modin H., Persson K.M., Andersson A.,van Praagh M., Removal of metals from landfill leachate by sorption to activated carbon, bone meal and iron fines, J. Hazard. Mater., 2011, 189, 749-754.

  • [48] Mohammadi S.Z., Karimi M.A., Afzali D.,Mansouri F., Preparation and characterization of activated carbon from Amygdalus Scoparia shell by chemical activation and its application for removal of lead from aqueous solutions, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2010, 8, 1273-1280.

  • [49] Mohammadi S.Z., Karimi M.A., Afzali D.,Mansouri F., Removal of Pb(II) from aqueous solutions using activated carbon from Sea-buckthorn stones by chemical activation, Desalination, 2010, 262, 86-93.

  • [50] Mohan D.,Pittman Jr C.U., Arsenic removal from water/ wastewater using adsorbents-A critical review, J. Hazard. Mater., 2007, 142, 1-53.

  • [51] Mondal P., Majumder C.B.,Mohanty B., Effects of adsorbent dose, its particle size and initial arsenic concentration on the removal of arsenic, iron and manganese from simulated ground water by Fe3+ impregnated activated carbon, J. Hazard. Mater., 2008, 150, 695-702.

  • [52] Moreno-Piraján J.C.,Giraldo L., Activated carbon from bamboo waste modified with iron and its application in the study of the adsorption of arsenite and arsenate, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2013, 11, 160-170.

  • [53] Muñiz G., Fierro V., Celzard A., Furdin G., Gonzalez-Sánchez G., Ballinas M.L., Synthesis, characterization and performance in arsenic removal of iron-doped activated carbons prepared by impregnation with Fe(III) and Fe(II), J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 165, 893-902.

  • [54] Nowicki P., Kuszyńska I., Przepiórski J.,Pietrzak R., The effect of chemical activation method on properties of activated carbons obtained from pine cones, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2013, 11, 78-85.

  • [55] Park H.G., Kim T.W., Chae M.Y.,Yoo I.K., Activated carboncontaining alginate adsorbent for the simultaneous removal of heavy metals and toxic organics, Process Biochem., 2007, 42, 1371-1377.

  • [56] Peleka E.N.,Matis K.A., Water separation processes and sustainability, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2011, 50, 421-430.

  • [57] Phuengprasop T., Sittiwong J.,Unob F., Removal of heavy metal ions by iron oxide coated sewage sludge, J. Hazard. Mater., 2011, 186, 502-507.

  • [58] Pyrzyńska K.,Bystrzejewski M., Comparative study of heavy metal ions sorption onto activated carbon, carbon nanotubes, and carbon-encapsulated magnetic nanoparticles, Colloid Surf. A., 2010, 362, 102-109.

  • [59] Rivera-Utrilla J.,Sánchez-Polo M., Adsorption of Cr(III) on ozonised activated carbon. Importance of Cπ—cation interactions, Water Res., 2003, 37, 3335-3340.

  • [60] Rivera-Utrilla J., Sánchez-Polo M., Gómez-Serrano V., Álvarez P.M., Alvim-Ferraz M.C.M.,Dias J.M., Activated carbon modifications to enhance its water treatment applications. An overview, J. Hazard. Mater., 2011, 187, 1-23.

  • [61] Seredych M., Hulicova-Jurcakova D., Lu G.Q.,Bandosz T.J., Surface functional groups of carbons and the effects of their chemical character, density and accessibility to ions on electrochemical performance, Carbon, 2008, 46, 1475-1488.

  • [62] Shrestha R.M., Varga I., Bajtai J.,Varga M., Design of surface functionalization of waste material originated charcoals by an optimized chemical carbonization for the purpose of heavy metal removal from industrial waste waters, Microchem. J., 2013, 108, 224-232.

  • [63] Şváb M., Sukdolová K.,Şvábová M., Competitive adsorption of toxic metals on activated carbon, Cent. Eur. J. Chem., 2011, 9, 437-445.

  • [64] Tovar-Gómez R., Rivera-Ramírez D.A., Hernández-Montoya V., Bonilla-Petriciolet A., Durán-Valle C.J.,Montes-Morán M.A., Synergic adsorption in the simultaneous removal of acid blue 25 and heavy metals from water using a Ca(PO 3) 2-modified carbon, J. Hazard. Mater., 2012, 199-200, 290-300.

  • [65] Treviño-Cordero H., Juárez-Aguilar L.G., Mendoza-Castillo D.I., Hernández-Montoya V., Bonilla-Petriciolet A.,Montes-Morán M.A., Synthesis and adsorption properties of activated carbons from biomass of Prunus domestica and Jacaranda mimosifolia for the removal of heavy metals and dyes from water, Industrial Crops and Products, 2013, 42, 315-323.

  • [66] Vuković G.D., Marinković A.D., Škapin S.D., Ristić M.T., Aleksić R., Perić-Grujić A.A., et al., Removal of lead from water by amino modified multi-walled carbon nanotubes, Chem. Eng. J., 2011, 173, 855-865.

  • [67] Wang L., Zhang J., Zhao R., Li Y., Li C.,Zhang C., Adsorption of Pb(II) on activated carbon prepared from Polygonum orientale Linn.: Kinetics, isotherms, pH, and ionic strength studies, Bioresour. Technol., 2010, 101, 5808-5814.

  • [68] Xue Y., Gao B., Yao Y., Inyang M., Zhang M., Zimmerman A.R., et al., Hydrogen peroxide modification enhances the ability of biochar (hydrochar) produced from hydrothermal carbonization of peanut hull to remove aqueous heavy metals: Batch and column tests, Chem. Eng. J., 2012, 200-202, 673-680.

  • [69] Zaini M.A.A., Okayama R.,Machida M., Adsorption of aqueous metal ions on cattle-manure-compost based activated carbons, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 170, 1119-1124.

  • [70] Zhu H., Jia Y., Wu X.,Wang H., Removal of arsenic from water by supported nano zero-valent iron on activated carbon, J. Hazard. Mater., 2009, 172, 1591-1596.

  • [71] Zouboulis A.I., Kydros K.A.,Matis K.A., Flotation of powdered activated carbon with adsorbed gold(I)-thiourea complex, Hydrometallurgy, 1994, 36, 39-51.


Journal + Issues