Phenolic carbon tailored for the removal of polar organic contaminants from water: A solution to the metaldehyde problem?

Rosa Busquets, Oleksandr P. Kozynchenko, Raymond L.D. Whitby, Stephen R. Tennison, Andrew B. Cundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Current water treatment technologies are inefficient at treating water contaminated with metaldehyde, an 8-member cyclic tetramer of acetaldehyde widely used as a molluscicide in large-scale agriculture and in gardens, and which has been frequently observed to breach European regulatory limits in the UK due to its high solubility and frequent use. Here, we examine the controls on metaldehyde adsorption onto activated phenolic carbon, namely the influence of activation degree, pore size distribution, particle size, point of zero charge and surface functionalisation, by synthesising "tailored" carbons from phenolic resin. Metaldehyde adsorption has been found to be independent of specific surface area (SBET), which is highly unusual for an adsorption process, and is favoured in carbons with (a) high microporosity with narrow pore size distribution, (b) presence of mesopores which allow efficient diffusive transport, and (c) an absence of negatively charged functional groups. The maximum adsorption capacity of the phenolic resin-derived carbons, tested at an elevated (i.e. exceeding environmental levels) water concentration of 64mg metaldehyde/L, was 76mg metaldehyde/g carbon compared with 13mg metaldehyde/g carbon in industrial granular activated carbon (GAC). The phenolic resin-derived carbons and GAC showed similar adsorption kinetics with maximum metaldehyde uptake occurring within 30min under batch adsorption conditions, although adsorption isotherms indicate much stronger adsorption of metaldehyde on the phenolic resin-derived carbons. Adsorption efficiency for metaldehyde was maintained even in the presence of high background concentrations of organic matter and inorganic salts, indicating the potential utility of these "designer" carbons in waste and/or drinking water treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - Sep 15 2014


  • Metaldehyde
  • Phenolic carbon
  • Wastewater
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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