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Environmental Engineering Research 2022;27(6): 210496 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4491/eer.2021.496
Adsorption of benzalkonium chlorides onto powdered activated carbon: mechanisms and detoxification
Tae-Kyoung Kim1,4, Woo-Seok Choe2, Taeyeon Kim2, Seon-Ha Chae3, Yu Sik Hwang4, and Kyung-Duk Zoh2 
1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, United States
2Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Republic of Korea
3Korea Water Resources Corporation, K-water Institute, Deajeon 34350, Republic of Korea
4Environmental Fate and Exposure Research Group, Korea Institute of Toxicology, Jinju 52834, Republic of Korea
Corresponding Author: Kyung-Duk Zoh ,Tel: +822-880-2737, Fax: +822-762-2888, Email: zohkd@snu.ac.kr
Received: October 6, 2021;  Accepted: December 1, 2021.
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Because disinfectants have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, the global demand for benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) has significantly increased. BACs can inactivate coronaviruses, but are known as toxic. In this study, we investigated the adsorption mechanisms of BAC12, BAC14, and BAC16 in water using powdered activated carbon (PAC). The effects of the reaction time, pH, and temperature on the adsorption kinetics of BACs were examined. The adsorption reaction followed pseudo-second-order kinetics, and better fitted to the Langmuir isotherm than the Freundlich isotherm. The best adsorption of BACs was achieved at neutral pH conditions. Thermodynamic analysis revealed that adsorption of BACs onto PAC is a spontaneous and endothermic process. Competitive adsorption experiments revealed that BACs with longer alkyl chains were adsorbed more effectively onto PAC than shorter alkyl chain BACs, implying that, while the electrostatic interaction is an important adsorption mechanism for BAC12, van der Waals interaction plays a more important role during the adsorption of BAC14 and BAC16. Finally, we observed the partial detoxification (69%) BAC in adsorption treated water with PAC using a Microtox test.
Keywords: Adsorption | Benzalkonium chlorides | Langmuir isotherm | Microtox test | Powdered activated carbon
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