Enhanced adsorption of Cu(II) and Zn(II) from aqueous solution by polyethyleneimine modified straw hydrochar

Xinyue He, Tao Zhang, Qing Xue, Yalan Zhou, Hailong Wang, Nanthi S. Bolan, Rongfeng Jiang, Daniel C.W. Tsang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Heavy metals removal from aqueous phase by adsorption technique has recently attracted a considerable interest. Although various adsorbing materials have been developed, introducing more functional groups is considered as the most efficient way to promote the adsorption capacity of the selected adsorbent. However, this approach is usually limited in costly modification precursor and unguaranteed loading efficacy. In this study, waste corn straw was converted to adsorbent precursor by hydrothermal carbonization. The obtained hydrochar (HC) was chemically activated before being modified by polyethyleneimine (PEI). Multiple analysis methods including Scanning Electron Microscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared analysis, and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy analysis verified the alkali activated hydrochar (alkali-HC) was more efficacy to enhance PEI grafting than acid activation. Based on this, the modified HC materials obtained a better adsorption performance. The sorption process of Cu(II) and Zn(II) on the acid-PEI-HC, alkali-PEI-HC, and pristine HC fitted the pseudo second order kinetic and Freundlich model well, and was dominated by chemisorption. Among these adsorbents, the adsorption capacity of alkali-PEI-HC to metal ions was the maximum, which was 207.6 mg/g to Zn(II) and 56.1 mg/g to Cu(II) at 298 K. Regeneration tests showed a result of no less than 60% of its removal capacity was achieved after five cycles. Therefore, alkali-PEI-HC performed as a promising composite sorbent for metal ions. In addition, the study described here has provided a new basis for the utilization of hydrochar (1.08 kWh kg−1) derived from agricultural resources as a promising adsorbent precursor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146116
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021


  • Adsorption
  • Cu (II)
  • Hydrochar production
  • Polyethyleneimine
  • Zn(II)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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