Development of microwave-assisted nitrogen-modified activated carbon for efficient biogas desulfurization: a practical approach

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Feb;30(7):17129-17148. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-20627-x. Epub 2022 May 12.


Removal of H2S (hydrogen sulfide) from biogas is anticipated for higher energy conversion of methane (CH4), while reducing the detrimental impacts of corroding the metal parts in the plant and its hazardous effect on humans and the environment. The introduction of microwave (MW) heating and nitrogen-modification could generate superior adsorbent features, contributing to high H2S removal. Up to date, there is no work reported on the influence of physicochemical characteristics of nitrogen-modified carbon synthesized via MW and conventional heating (TH) methods and their performance in H2S removal. Palm shell activated carbon (PSAC) was functionalized with nitrogen groups via urea impregnation, followed by the synthesis of MW and TH at 950 °C, 500 ml/min of N2 flow rate and 30 min of heating time. MW and TH heating effects on the modified PSAC adsorbent were analysed and compared towards hydrogen sulfide (H2S) removal. PSAC with nitrogen functionalization produced using MW heating (PSAC-MW) demonstrates superior performance, with an adsorption capacity of 356.94 mg/g. The adsorbent sample generated using MW heating exhibited notable properties, including a large surface area and a sponge-like structure, with new pores developed within the current pores. Instead of that, there was an observation of 'hot spot' appearance during the MW heating process, which is believed to be responsible for the development of physical and chemical characteristics of the adsorbent. Thus, it is believed that MW heating was assisted in the development of the adsorbent's properties and at the same time contributed to the high removal of H2S at low adsorption temperature. The utilization of biomass-based adsorbent (PSAC) for H2S removal can address the lignocellulosic waste disposal problem, while mitigating the H2S release from the biogas production plants thus has several environmental merits. This indirectly contributed to zero-waste generation, while overcoming the adverse effects of H2S.

Keywords: Activated carbon; Adsorption; Biogas; Hydrogen sulfide; Microwave heating; Nitrogen functional groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Biofuels* / analysis
  • Charcoal / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide* / analysis
  • Microwaves
  • Nitrogen / analysis


  • Biofuels
  • Charcoal
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Nitrogen