Adsorption of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwater by granular activated carbons: Roles of hydrophobicity of PFAS and carbon characteristics

Minkyu Park, Shimin Wu, Israel J. Lopez, Joseph Y. Chang, Tanju Karanfil, Shane A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Scopus citations


The adsorption breakthrough behavior of nine perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwaters by four bituminous coal-based granular activated carbons (F400, Carbsorb 40, HPC and CMR400) was studied using rapid small-scale column tests (RSSCTs). The half breakthrough bed volume (BV50), an indicator of apparent adsorption capacity, correlated with the hydrophobicity of PFAS at a given pH (i.e., Log Dow) for F400, indicating that hydrophobic interaction is important for apparent adsorption capacity of PFAS in groundwater with low dissolved organic concentrations (DOC < 1 mg C/L) and low specific UV absorbances at 254 nm (SUVA254 < 2 L mg−1m−1). Higher empty bed contact time (EBCT) caused steeper PFAS breakthrough curves with respect to throughput, but did not affect apparent adsorption capacity. Three different sizes of F400 (0.13, 0.17, and 0.20 mm) exhibited similar breakthrough profiles of PFAS, indicating that the intraparticle diffusivity was independent of adsorbent diameter in the given conditions. Among the tested carbons, the positively charged adsorbents (F400, HPC, and CMR400) showed higher apparent adsorption capacities for hydrophilic (Log Dow at pH 7 < 0) and marginally hydrophobic PFAS (Log Dow at pH 7 between 0 and 1) than the negatively charged adsorbent (Carbsorb 40). In addition, activated carbons with higher micropore surface areas exhibited higher apparent adsorption capacities of hydrophilic and marginally hydrophobic PFAS among the positively-charged activated carbons, whereas the mesoporous carbon (HPC) exhibited an increasingly larger adsorption capacity for more hydrophobic PFAS compared to the microporous carbon (F400) at a later breakthrough possibly due to less pore blockage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115364
JournalWater research
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Breakthrough
  • Granular activated carbon
  • Groundwater
  • Hydrophobicity
  • PFAS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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