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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Print version ISSN 0038-223X


CAMPBELL, Q.P.; BUNT, J. R.; KASAINI, H.  and  KRUGER, D.J.. The preparation of activated carbon from South African coal. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.1, pp. 37-44. ISSN 0038-223X.

Activated carbons used in the precious metals extraction industry are characterized by large internal surface areas and a great affinity for metal ions. The purpose of this research is to prepare activated carbon from a South African bituminous coal by physical activation that is suitable and cost-effective for use in the extraction of metals. The quality of the coal-based activated carbon may not prove to be as good as activated carbon produced from other traditional sources, but the production costs involved may make South African coal a feasible alternative feedstock. The activated carbons produced were characterized by Brunauer, Emmett, and Teller (BET) surface area, activated carbon pH, and phenol adsorption studies and the results compared to the results from a commercially available activated carbon, Norit RO 0.8 (control sample). Bituminous coals from various sources including Witbank Seam 4 and Free State coal were used in this study. The preparation method chosen was physical activation using superheated steam. The effects of process variables such as activation time (1-3 h) and temperature (600-800ºC) were studied in order to optimize those parameters. The activated carbon surface area was characterized by means of nitrogen adsorption isotherms at 77K. BET surface area analysis showed that Witbank Seam 4 coal activated at a temperature of 800ºC and activation time of 3 hours resulted in a surface area of 340 m2/g. Quality control of each sample was performed by measuring the pH of a known amount of the prepared activated carbon in distilled water over time. Results showed that the pH of some of the prepared activated carbons reached a value of 11. Phenol adsorption results for the different activated carbons prepared corresponded well to the results obtained for the Norit RO 0.8 activated carbon sample.

Keywords : activated carbon; precious metal; South African coal; surface area; phenol adsorption.

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