Granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption in tertiary wastewater treatment: experiments and models

Water Sci Technol. 2003;47(1):113-20.


Wastewater treatment has always been a major concern in the developed countries. Over the last few decades, activated carbon adsorption has gained importance as an alternative tertiary wastewater treatment and purification process. In this study, granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption was evaluated in terms of total organic carbon (TOC) removal from low strength synthetic wastewater. This paper provides details on adsorption experiments conducted on synthetic wastewater to develop suitable adsorption isotherms. Although the inorganics used in the synthetic wastewater solution had an overall unfavourable effect on adsorption of organics, the GAC adsorption system was found to be effective in removing TOC from the wastewater. This study showed that equation of state (EOS) theory was able to fit the adsorption isotherm results more precisely than the most commonly used Freundlich isotherm. Biodegradation of the organics with time was the most crucial and important aspect of the system and it was taken into account in determining the isotherm parameters. Initial organic concentration of the wastewater was the determining factor of the model parameters, and hence the isotherm parameters were determined covering a wide range of initial organic concentrations of the wastewater. As such, the isotherm parameters derived using the EOS theory could predict the batch adsorption and fixed bed adsorption results of the multi-component system successfully. The isotherm parameters showed a significant effect on the determination of the mass transfer coefficients in batch and fixed bed systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Carbon / chemistry*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Temperature
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Pollutants / isolation & purification


  • Water Pollutants
  • Carbon