Impact of different DOM size fractions on the desorption of organic micropollutants from activated carbon

Geert Aschermann*, Lino Neubert, Frederik Zietzschmann, Martin Jekel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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Whereas the adsorption of organic micropollutants (OMP) onto activated carbon (AC) is relatively well studied, little is known about potential OMP desorption effects, especially in real waters. In this study, the impact of different fractions of drinking water DOM on OMP desorption from AC was examined. By different pre-treatments of a raw drinking water, a high molecular weight (hmw) and a low molecular weight (lmw) DOM solution were prepared. These solutions were used as background matrix in AC adsorption/desorption batch tests, simulating a drop of the OMP inflow concentration to a fixed-bed adsorber. The tests were conducted in parallel with three AC of different pore structures (microporous, mesoporous/balanced, macroporous). The tests were evaluated with respect to the extent of OMP adsorption and its reversibility, which represents the potential extent of OMP desorption. In terms of OMP adsorption, the lmw-DOM fraction induced a higher competitive effect on OMP adsorption in comparison to the hmw-DOM fraction. In terms of their impact on OMP desorption extent, both fractions led to very similar results. In case of the macroporous AC, both DOM fractions induce an enhanced OMP desorption that can be attributed to displacement effects in both cases. For the microporous AC, an increased irreversibility of OMP adsorption was found in both cases, which shows that DOM adsorption prevents OMP desorption, independently of the size of the adsorbed DOM compounds. Whereas results from this study as well as from former studies indicate that this effect might be induced by permanent pore blockages by adsorbed DOM, further results show that there could be more complex DOM interactions that lead to the decreased desorption in case of microporous AC. Nonetheless, the very similar impact of the different DOM fractions on the reversibility of OMP adsorption indicates that the potential extent of desorption is similar in different waters (with different DOM composition) and primarily depending on the pore structure of the used AC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Activated carbon
  • Adsorption
  • Desorption
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Drinking water
  • Organic micropollutants


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