, Volume 18, Issue 3–4, pp 265–274 | Cite as

Physical and chemical properties of PAN-derived electrospun activated carbon nanofibers and their potential for use as an adsorbent for toxic industrial chemicals

  • P. Sullivan
  • J. Moate
  • B. Stone
  • J. D. Atkinson
  • Z. Hashisho
  • M. J. Rood


A recently developed carbon material, electrospun Activated Carbon nanoFiber (ACnF), exhibits strong potential for use as an adsorbent for toxic industrial chemicals (TICs). As-prepared ACnF contains as much as 9.6 wt% nitrogen, creating a basic surface that enhances acid-gas adsorption. ACnF shows 4–20 times greater HCN adsorption capacities and 2–5 times greater SO2 adsorption capacities in dry nitrogen, compared to commercially available activated carbon fiber cloth (ACFC) and Calgon BPL™ granular activated carbon, which are considered here as reference adsorbents. ACnF has 50 % of the micropore volume (0.30 cm3/g) of these reference adsorbents, which limits its adsorption capacity at high concentrations for volatile organic compounds (>500 ppmv). However, at low concentrations (<500 ppmv), ACnF has a similar capacity to ACFC and about three times the VOC adsorption capacity of Calgon BPL™. ACnF’s small fiber diameters (0.2–1.5 μm) allow for higher mass transfer coefficients, resulting in adsorption kinetics nearly twice as fast as ACFC and eight times as fast as Calgon BPL™. ACnF drawbacks include hydrophilicity and reduced structural strength. The rapid adsorption kinetics and high capacity for acidic TICs warrant further investigation of ACnF as an adsorbent in respiratory protection and indoor air quality applications.


Adsorption HCN Nanofiber SO2 Butane Toxic industrial chemical Activated carbon 



SEM and XPS were carried out in part in the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory Central Facilities, University of Illinois, which are partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grants DE-FG02-07ER46453 and DE-FG02-07ER46471. Funding was also provided by NSF CBET 10-34470 and University of Illinois to complete select analytical techniques and interpret the results. The Defense Science Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK, also contributed to this work through the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s (AFOSR’s) Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Sullivan
    • 1
  • J. Moate
    • 1
  • B. Stone
    • 2
  • J. D. Atkinson
    • 3
  • Z. Hashisho
    • 4
  • M. J. Rood
    • 3
  1. 1.Air Force Research LaboratoryTyndall AFBUSA
  2. 2.Applied Research AssociatesPanama CityUSA
  3. 3.University of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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