• Vol 10, No 8 (2019)
  • Chemical Engineering

Phenol Adsorption in Water by Granular Activated Carbon from Coconut Shell

Reni Desmiarti, Munas Martynis, Yenni Trianda, Fusheng Li, Ahmad Viqri, Toshiro Yamada

Corresponding email: renitk@bunghatta.ac.id

Cite this article as:
Desmiarti, R., Martynis, M., Trianda, Y., Li, F., Viqri, A., Yamada, T., 2019. Phenol Adsorption in Water by Granular Activated Carbon from Coconut Shell. International Journal of Technology. Volume 10(8), pp. 1488-1497
Reni Desmiarti Departement of Chemical Engineering Department, Faculty of Industrial Technology, Bung Hatta University, Padang 25147, Indonesia
Munas Martynis Departement of Chemical Engineering Department, Faculty of Industrial Technology, Bung Hatta University, Padang 25147, Indonesia
Yenni Trianda Departement of Chemical Engineering Department, Faculty of Industrial Technology, Bung Hatta University, Padang 25147, Indonesia
Fusheng Li River Basin Research Center, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu 501-1193, Japan
Ahmad Viqri Departement of Chemical Engineering Department, Faculty of Industrial Technology, Bung Hatta University, Padang 25147, Indonesia
Toshiro Yamada Department of Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu 501-1193, Japan
Email to Corresponding Author


Phenol adsorption by granular activated carbon from coconut shell was studied in batch experiments under various initial phenol concentrations. Adsorption equilibrium was reached within 4 hours. The characteristics of the phenol adsorption process onto granular activated carbon from coconut shell were studied by adsorption isotherm modeling, analysis that uses fluorescence spectroscopy, in addition to measuring nanoparticle size and volume distribution by a Zetasizer Nano. The Langmuir isotherm model best fits the phenol adsorption onto granular activated carbon from coconut shell, and the maximum adsorption capacities for unsterilized and sterilized types were found to be 17.54 mg/g and 13.70 mg/g, respectively. The excitation-emission matrix results showed that the humic-like substance’s peaks almost completely disappear post-adsorption. It was also found that the nanoparticle size distribution shifted from ranges of 0.72–1.74 nm in raw water to 45.66–726.73 nm and 57.08–1068.47 nm post-adsorption in unsterilized and sterilized water samples, respectively, suggesting that phenol adsorption had occurred. This study shows that low-cost coconut shellbased activated carbon demonstrated good removal capability and hence can be used as a new adsorbent material on large scale.

Adsorption; Coconut shell; EEMs; Nanoparticle; Phenol


Phenolic compounds have high toxic materials in various aquatic environments. Phenols are widely used as raw materials in the manufacturing of a variety of industrial products, such as coal processing, paint, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals (Ocampo-Perez et al., 2011). They are considered one of the priority pollutants in wastewater because they are harmful to organisms, even at low concentrations (Petrie et al., 2015; Sophia & Lima, 2018). Because of phenolic compounds’ toxicities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the European Union have targeted phenolic compounds as important micro pollutants in water environments.

The limit of phenol is 0.1 mg l-1 in the effluent of wastewater treatment plants to defend against negative human health effects (Balasubramanian & Venkatesan, 2012). The limit of phenol concentration in drinking water is  0.001 mg l-1  as regulated by  the World Health Organization (WHO) (Rivera-Utrilla et al., 2013).

In Indonesia, especially in Padang city, water bodies also have been polluted by phenols. Research conducted by the Regional Environmental Impact Management Agency in 2011 showed that phenol levels in Kuranji River were 1 mg l-1, exceeding the 0.001 ppm of phenol limit. In 2013, the phenol level had reached 2.74 mg l-1, an increase of 63.5% from the previous investigation (Desmiarti et al., 2016). Therefore, the removal of phenols is a major necessity for water environmental safety.

Adsorption using activated carbon is a well-established process to remove organic pollutants, such as phenol, from water and wastewater due to its excellent adsorption abilities. Granular activated carbons are generally used due to their abilities to adsorb both organic and inorganic contaminants, especially phenolic compounds (Kowalczyk et al., 2018), nickel ions (Olufemi & Eniodunmo, 2018), lanthanide ions (Kusrini et al., 2018), and adsorbed natural gas (Alhamid et al., 2015). Activated carbon has a large surface area, micropore structure, and high adsorption capacity, rendering it an excellent adsorbent.

The adsorption of phenolic compounds from aquatic environments on activated carbons has been studied for a long period. Other adsorbents have been used, such as organoclays (Luo et al., 2015) and organomontmorillonites (Wang et al., 2017). However, some of these adsorbents could not remove all the phenol from water samples. Activated carbon, which is both lower-cost and more locally available, should be compared with other adsorbents to determine its relative performance.

In this study, granular activated carbon from coconut shell is used as an adsorbent to eliminate phenols from aqueous solutions that occur in the western coastal side of Padang city, Indonesia. Activated carbon was expected to be a cost-effective adsorbent. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of activated carbon prepared from the coconut shell, an agricultural waste material, for the removal of phenol from aqueous solutions. Three types of commercial granular activated carbon were used as comparisons in this study.


Granular activated carbon from coconut shell was used to investigate the phenol-adsorption capacities of various adsorbents in batch experiments. The equilibrium adsorption data was best characterized by the Langmuir isotherm, indicating monolayer adsorption on a homogenous surface. The adsorption capacities in both US and S type was found to be 17.54 mg/g and 13.70 mg/g, respectively, at 25°C. The fluorescence spectroscopy results showed the Kuranji River DOM contained two major components: humic-like substances and protein-like substances. The maximum removal rate of 92.5% for both types of samples was obtained post-adsorption, as measured by the phenol kit. The nanoparticle size distribution also shifted from ranges of 0.72–1.74 nm in raw water to 45.66–726.73 nm and 57.08–1068.47 nm in US type and S type water, respectively. These results showed that this agricultural waste material could be used as an excellent adsorbent.


We are grateful to the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Republic of Indonesia, who supported this work with research contract K10/KM/2018. The authors are also thankful to the Water Quality Laboratory and the River Basin Research Center, Gifu University, Japan


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