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Surfactant removal with multiwalled carbon nanotubes

Lookup NU author(s): Weijia Chen, Yueh-Hsia Chen, Professor David WernerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The ability of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) to remove a non-ionic surfactant, Triton X-100 (TX100), an anionic surfactant, sodium dodecylbenzenesulonate (SDBS), and a cationic surfactant, hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) from the aqueous phase was investigated. Untreated, OH-, and COOH-functionalized MWCNTs with different outer diameters and chemical composition were examined and compared. As both the concentrations of surfactants and MWCNTs initially added may affect removal efficiency of surfactants, a relationship between the initial concentration ratio of surfactants and MWCNTs (Rc) and the removal efficiency (E) was established. The results showed that for a given Rc (e.g., 0.8), removal efficiency of the tested surfactants by a specific MWCNT (e.g., the untreated one with outer diameter <8 nm) decreased in the following order: TX100 (52.3%) > SDBS (26.2%) > CTAB (3.8%). TX100 was more readily removed by MWCNTs than SDBS and CTAB, due to its longer aliphatic chain compared to SDBS and CTAB thus higher hydrophobicity, and stronger π-π interactions with the aromatic structure of the surfaces of graphite sheets relative to CTAB. Based upon the established relationship between Rc and E of surfactants by MWCNTs, the maximum removal efficiency and the most appropriate Rc of TX100 and SDBS by two MWCNTs (UT8 and OH8) were derived. It was interesting to notice that, except for the case to remove TX100 using UT8, even though a large quantity of UT8 or OH8 was added to the TX100 or SDBS removal systems, they cannot be completely removed, with the maximum removal efficiency in the range of 55.88–87.17%. This mostly resulted from strong aggregation of MWCNTs thus reducing their readily accessible surface area and porosity for sorption.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gao Q, Chen W, Chen Y, Werner D, Cornelissen G, Xing B, Tao S, Wang X

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Research

Year: 2016

Volume: 106

Pages: 531-538

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Online publication date: 11/10/2016

Acceptance date: 09/10/2016

Date deposited: 12/10/2016

ISSN (print): 0043-1354

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2448

Publisher: IWA Publishing


DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.10.027


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Funder referenceFunder name
undergraduate research training program
2014CB441104973 Program
41629101National Natural Science Foundation of China
2012ZX07503-003-004National Key Project of Science and Technology
41130754National Natural Science Foundation of China
41271461National Natural Science Foundation of China
41390240National Natural Science Foundation of China
41525005National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scientist
B14001111 Program