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

Rosa Busquets Santacana, O.P. Kozynchenko, Raymond Whitby, S.R. Tennison, Andrew Cundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 (S BET), 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 64 mg metaldehyde/ L, was 76 mg metaldehyde/g carbon compared with 13 mg 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 30 min 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 - 15 Sept 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


  • Metaldehyde
  • Phenolic carbon
  • Water treatment
  • Wastewater


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