Mercury adsorption on granular activated carbon in aqueous solutions containing nitrates and chlorides

J Hazard Mater. 2011 Sep 15;192(3):1842-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2011.07.021. Epub 2011 Jul 12.


Adsorption is an effective process to remove mercury from polluted waters. In spite of the great number of experiments on this subject, the assessment of the optimal working conditions for industrial processes is suffering the lack of reliable models to describe the main adsorption mechanisms. This paper presents a critical analysis of mercury adsorption on an activated carbon, based on the use of chemical speciation analysis to find out correlations between mercury adsorption and concentration of dissolved species. To support this analysis, a comprehensive experimental study on mercury adsorption at different mercury concentrations, temperatures and pH was carried out in model aqueous solutions. This study pointed out that mercury capture occurs mainly through adsorption of cationic species, the adsorption of anions being significant only for basic pH. Furthermore, it was shown that HgOH(+) and Hg(2+) are captured to a higher extent than HgCl(+), but their adsorption is more sensitive to solution pH. Tests on the effect of temperature in a range from 10 to 55 °C showed a peculiar non-monotonic trend for mercury solution containing chlorides. The chemical speciation and the assumption of adsorption exothermicity allow describing this experimental finding without considering the occurrence of different adsorption mechanisms at different temperature.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical
  • Chlorides / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ions
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Nitrates / chemistry*
  • Temperature
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Chlorides
  • Ions
  • Nitrates
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Carbon
  • Mercury