Gas-Phase Formaldehyde Adsorption Isotherm Studies on Activated Carbon: Correlations of Adsorption Capacity to Surface Functional Group Density

Formaldehyde (HCHO) adsorption isotherms were developed for the first time on three activated carbons representing one activated carbon fiber (ACF) cloth, one all-purpose granular activated carbon (GAC), and one GAC commercially promoted for gas-phase HCHO removal. The three activated carbons were evaluated for HCHO removal in the low-ppmv range and for water vapor adsorption from relative pressures of 0.1–0.9 at 26 °C where, according to the IUPAC isotherm classification system, the adsorption isotherms observed exhibited Type V behavior. A Type V adsorption isotherm model recently proposed by Qi and LeVan (Q–L) was selected to model the observed adsorption behavior because it reduces to a finite, nonzero limit at low partial pressures and it describes the entire range of adsorption considered in this study. The Q–L model was applied to a polar organic adsorbate to fit HCHO adsorption isotherms for the three activated carbons. The physical and chemical characteristics of the activated carbon surfaces were characterized using nitrogen adsorption isotherms, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and Boehm titrations. At low concentrations, HCHO adsorption capacity was most strongly related to the density of basic surface functional groups (SFGs), while water vapor adsorption was most strongly influenced by the density of acidic SFGs.