(3gq) Induced Chemical Functionalization of Graphitic Structures for Effective Water Purification and Desalination | AIChE

(3gq) Induced Chemical Functionalization of Graphitic Structures for Effective Water Purification and Desalination


Sajjadi, B. - Presenter, University of Mississippi
Chen, W. Y., University of Mississippi
Mattern, D., University of Mississippi
Research Interests

Research Interests: Bio-processes, Carbonaceous structures

  • Bioenergy and Biofuels (Biodiesel and Biochar)
  • Activation of Carbonaceous Graphitic Structures (Plasma and Ultrasound)
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Sono-Physics - Plasma Chemistry
  • Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulation
  • Techno Economic Analysis (TEA)

Teaching Interests: All Chemical Engineering Courses


“Provide access to clean water” is one of the 14 “Grand Challenges” identified by the US National Academy of Engineering that need to be solved to ensure the planet’s survival. By 2050, 57% of the world’s population will live in areas that suffer water scarcity (UN-WWDR 2018).

The Sustainable Energy and Environment Group (SEEG) of the University of Mississippi (UM) has discovered the synergisms of activating biochar (BC) by ultrasound waves which include disarrangement and exfoliation of BC’s graphitic structure, mineral leaching, a significant increase in BC’s internal surface area and porosity, as well as the creation of new and opening the blocked mesopores. Such treatment also results in reductive fixation of CO2 in the form of induced carboxylic functional groups. The scientific background of the project is based on the work done by Stankovic (Nature 2006;442(7100): 282-6) who produced, for the first time, stable aqueous dispersions of single layer polymer-coated graphitic nanoplatelets via an exfoliation/in-situ reduction of graphite oxide under ultrasound irradiation. Biochar has a similar graphitic structure.

Our studies in this area have suggested that ultrasound structural exfoliation integrated with chemical functionalization of biochar (in aqueous solution or gaseous plasma) can unlock an array of applications across a wide spectrum of fields. For example, the conversion of a -COOH (carboxyl) group to a -CONHR (amide) results in 184-200% increase in CO2 removal over raw char. Another work of our group demonstrated that the covalent attachment of phosphorus-containing structures (such as P=O or P=OOH) followed by hydrogen bonding with any modifying agent that can be used to load N functional groups onto carbonaceous materials (Diethanolamine or Urea) can increase the metal removal from 11% (in pristine BC) to 72% (in functionalized BC) from water, which are a common problem in old water systems.. In the same manner, the quantity of oxygen-centered and carbon-centered persistent free radicals (PFRs) on biochar (or any carbonaceous structure) can be reinforced using structural modification followed by carbon-metal complexation. This results in an increase in the catalytic activity of biochar for the generation of hydroxyl radicals (â‹…OH) in advanced oxidation process and degradation of organic contaminants; such as phenol (in-situ degradation: 17% in H2O2-raw BC system vs 80.3% in H2O2-modified BC system). Another example of our works in this area focuses on carbon magnetization followed by 3-(Triethoxysilyl) propylamine (TES) functionalization (known as Magnetic-Carbon composites), which has shown 139% higher metal ion adsorption compared to raw biochar. Magnetically separable composites are of high importance to remove radioactive material from contaminated water; Case study: Fukushima Nuclear Accident (Nature 2014;4 (1): 6053). The experimental results demonstrated that the synergism created by the combined effect of ultrasound and chemical functionalization resulted in a faster adsorption rate, far higher metal retention capacity with no leaching of adsorbed metals during adsorption with long durations.

We are exploring the potential of employing DBD gaseous plasma for tackling water desalination challenges through structural modification (perforation) and functionalization of graphene membrane. Such defected graphene membrane with ability to reject or repel the Na+ and Cl- ions could make a difference for millions of people around the world. Efficient plasma functionalization can also open new routes in other fields such as in selective ion sieving, the process of kidney dialysis and reusable masks, which will be our future targets.

Key words: Biochar, Graphene, Ultrasound, Plasma, Functionalization, Water Treatment, Desalination


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