Removal of perfluorinated surfactants by sorption onto granular activated carbon, zeolite and sludge

Valeria Ochoa-Herrera, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

363 Scopus citations


Perfluorinated surfactants are emerging pollutants of increasing public health and environmental concern due to recent reports of their world-wide distribution, environmental persistence and bioaccumulation potential. Treatment methods for the removal of anionic perfluorochemical (PFC) surfactants from industrial effluents are needed to minimize the environmental release of these pollutants. Removal of PFC surfactants from aqueous solutions by sorption onto various types of granular activated carbon was investigated. Three anionic PFC surfactants, i.e., perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), were evaluated for the ability to adsorb onto activated carbon. Additionally, the sorptive capacity of zeolites and sludge for PFOS was compared to that of granular activated carbon. Adsorption isotherms were determined at constant ionic strength in a pH 7.2 phosphate buffer at 30 °C. Sorption of PFOS onto activated carbon was stronger than PFOA and PFBS, suggesting that the length of the fluorocarbon chain and the nature of the functional group influenced sorption of the anionic surfactants. Among all adsorbents evaluated in this study, activated carbon (Freundlich KF values = 36.7-60.9) showed the highest affinity for PFOS at low aqueous equilibrium concentrations, followed by the hydrophobic, high-silica zeolite NaY (Si/Al 80, KF = 31.8), and anaerobic sludge (KF = 0.95-1.85). Activated carbon also displayed a superior sorptive capacity at high soluble concentrations of the surfactant (up to 80 mg l-1). These findings indicate that activated carbon adsorption is a promising treatment technique for the removal of PFOS from dilute aqueous streams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1588-1593
Number of pages6
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Adsorption
  • Biosorption
  • PFBS
  • PFC
  • PFOA
  • PFOS


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