Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 17, pp 16664–16675 | Cite as

Modelling equilibrium adsorption of single, binary, and ternary combinations of Cu, Pb, and Zn onto granular activated carbon

  • Paripurnanda Loganathan
  • Wang Geun Shim
  • Danious Pratheep Sounthararajah
  • Mahatheva Kalaruban
  • Tanjina Nur
  • Saravanamuthu Vigneswaran
Research Article


Elevated concentrations of heavy metals in water can be toxic to humans, animals, and aquatic organisms. A study was conducted on the removal of Cu, Pb, and Zn by a commonly used water treatment adsorbent, granular activated carbon (GAC), from three single, three binary (Cu-Pb, Cu-Zn, Pb-Zn), and one ternary (Cu-Pb-Zn) combination of metals. It also investigated seven mathematical models on their suitability to predict the metals adsorption capacities. Adsorption of Cu, Pb, and Zn increased with pH with an abrupt increase in adsorption at around pH 5.5, 4.5, and 6.0, respectively. At all pHs tested (2.5–7.0), the adsorption capacity followed the order Pb > Cu > Zn. The Langmuir and Sips models fitted better than the Freundlich model to the data in the single-metal system at pH 5. The Langmuir maximum adsorption capacities of Pb, Cu, and Zn (mmol/g) obtained from the model’s fits were 0.142, 0.094, and 0.058, respectively. The adsorption capacities (mmol/g) for these metals at 0.01 mmol/L equilibrium liquid concentration were 0.130, 0.085, and 0.040, respectively. Ideal Adsorbed Solution (IAS)-Langmuir and IAS-Sips models fitted well to the binary and ternary metals adsorption data, whereas the Extended Langmuir and Extended Sips models’ fits to the data were poor. The selectivity of adsorption followed the same order as the metals’ capacities and affinities of adsorption in the single-metal systems.


Adsorption modelling Heavy metal adsorption Ideal adsorption solution theory Granular activated carbon Metal adsorption competition 


Funding information

This study was funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) (project number .


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paripurnanda Loganathan
    • 1
  • Wang Geun Shim
    • 2
  • Danious Pratheep Sounthararajah
    • 1
  • Mahatheva Kalaruban
    • 1
  • Tanjina Nur
    • 1
  • Saravanamuthu Vigneswaran
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of Technology Sydney (UTS)SydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Polymer Science and EngineeringSunchon National UniversitySuncheonRepublic of Korea

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