Innovations in the Activated Carbon Industry

Jan. 23, 2002
Summary of the 9th Annual International Activated Carbon Conference

About the author: Henry Nowicki, Ph.D., directs the day-to-day laboratory testing and consulting services for PACS Laboratory and Consulting Services. Nowicki has 25 years of practical experiences with activated carbon and other sorbents applied to environmental projects. Barbara Sherman, B.A., directs the day-to-day PACS Short Courses and Conferences. Fifty-seven courses and four focused conferences are provided annually including the September International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses in Pittsburgh, and the October Sampling, On-Site Analysis and Sample Preparation Conference. Homer Yute, M.S., works on special projects as a computer programmer for software development for using activated carbon at PACS Laboratory. Yute has provided seven programs for the activated carbon industry available through PACS. All three authors can be reached at PACS by calling 724-457-6576; 724-457-1214; [email protected];


Like an international cookbook, the attendees of the Ninth Annual International Activated Carbon Conference (IACC) from around the world contributed to a recipe for a successful future for the activated carbon industry. Speakers brought their new ideas and on-going practices together. This annual conference had guests from all over the United States, Canada, Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and India. The conference connects buyers, sellers and users of activated carbon and related materials and services.

The IACC was held in September. The conference and courses provide education, which is useful to expand the size and efficiency of the activated carbon and related sorbent industry.

New Ideas and Products

Mike Havelka from Envirotrol got the conference off to a good start. He discussed a new granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment to solve the pH rise problem. It is well-known that when GAC comes into contact with water, a 1–3 pH rise, which can last 50 to 500 bed volumes of GAC, often is observed. Havelka pointed out that the GAC ash percentage does not change during this pH rise phenomena and acid washed GAC also exhibits the pH rise phenomena. Data were presented that the influent water chemistry was responsible and not the GAC ash. The same lot of GAC was challenged with different water supplies had markedly different pH rises and duration. (The new GAC treated product available from Envirotrol is called NoRise.)

Tom Getting from Leopold, Inc. provided a talk “A Practical Guide to Sampling and Testing Filter Media” and demonstrated sampling equipment use. The evening before Getting’s talk, 19 conferees toured a local municipal drinking water treatment plant to observe backwashing of GAC filters and sampling demonstrations.

Al Roy and Dan Leister from MTAZ Global teamed up to present “Common Problems Related to Activated Carbon Systems.”  They pointed out that the number one problem was failure to wet the carbon properly. They provided a long list of operating problems they have observed, and solutions were given from their practical experiences.

Professor Jack Pinkerton has provided talks at most IACCs on Internet opportunities. This year’s presentation was titled “Wireless LANS and Web Applications.” Wireless connectivity to the Internet is increasing at a rapid rate. With this increase come benefits and problems. Benefits include increased access for customers and employees as well as applications such as instant messaging that permit improved interactive customer relationships. However, security must be made more complex to prevent loss or theft of proprietary information and data. Pinkerton has become the resource for electronic business advice for the IACC members.

Dr. Mick Greenbank from Calgon Carbon Corp. provided the one-hour plenary discussion titled “Working Model for Activated Carbon.”  This practical model is based on a vast accumulation of data. This model changes the way carbon suppliers and users approach carbon and opens up many new applications. Also from Calgon Carbon was Leo Zappa. He discussed “Options in Odor Control New Alternatives and Traditional Technologies.” He described the market drivers and different solutions to solve customer odor control problems. Practical solutions to solving these problems were provided.

Mel Petroccia, Esquire, from Michael Baker Engineers presented “What Engineering Firms Need from the Carbon Industry.”  Many conference evaluation comments included the point that they like to hear experts tell them what carbon users want from the carbon industry. Conference evaluations are important to provide planning for next year. The 2002 IACC will have speakers provide these recommendations.

Georgiana Riley, CEO and president of TIGG Corp., gave a presentation on changes and opportunities in the carbon industry. She pointed out that the price of GAC has fallen 75 percent in the last decade, which has stimulated a large increase in GAC demand. GAC is now an attractive impregnant for the catalyst industry. Many more players have arrived in the industry, requiring increased working together for all to prosper. This large and diverse group is expected to grow the industry for all.

Homer Yute presented his latest software program for the activated carbon industry, “Predictive Adsorption Capacities for Aqueous and Vapor-Phase Carbons.” The program is based on the Polanyi adsorption model for heterogenous surfaces and a given correlation curve to determine adsorbates capacity. This program provides a quick and low-cost activated carbon feasibility to justify further action.

Dan Burnett presented a new measurement technology: “Characterization of Acid and Base Properties of Activated Carbon by Inverse Gas Chromatography (iGC).” This technique reverses the role of conventional GC—the separation of components in a complex mixture. The iGC techniques provides information about the interaction of molecules with different sorbents packed into the GC column.

Dr. Henry Nowicki presented preliminary work titled “New Modified GAC for Total Arsenic Control in Drinking Waters.”  The new sorbent removes aqueous Arsenic III and V equally well, and performance does not depend on the pH. Existing arsenic control technologies work poorly with As III and better with AsV and have wide differences in performance depending on pH. This new GAC sorbent offers a low-cost solution to the global problem of arsenic contamination of drinking water supplies.

Dr. Amos Turk provided “Activated Carbons for Removal of H2S—Special and Not So Special.” Turk provided copies of the latest American Society for Testing Methods (ASTM) method to evaluate hydrogen sulfide (H2S) sorbent capacity. He pointed out that there are many compounds that make up sewage odor and they should be considered in later methods designed to evaluate performance.

George Alther from Biomin, Inc. talked on “Organoclays Extend Activated Carbon Service Life 7–9 Times in Oily Water.” Alther pointed out that oil droplets coat GAC and block transport to the interior microporous structure of GAC, which is important to the GAC adsorption phenomena. Placing organoclay products in front of GAC solves this oil coating problem and extends GAC service life seven to nine times.

Hugh McLaughlin, P.E., discussed “Solvent Regeneration of Spent Carbon.” McLaughlin applied the new working model for carbon presented by Greenbank. Hugh discussed some commercial successes with solvent regeneration of spent GAC. Activated carbon can be regenerated by extraction with organic solvents by a process using solvents to dissolve adsorbed material out of the internal pores of GAC . This in-situ process of solvent regeneration is cost effective and can restore 70 to 90 percent of the adsorption capacity of the original GAC without any loss of GAC.

Wayne Schuliger talked about coping with bed fires. Through the years there have been bed fires and temperatures excursions in vapor phase carbon systems. The applications, which have experienced the most occurrences, are solvent recovery and tank vents. Proper design and operation procedures were presented to minimize these incidents.

New test methods and equipment also were presented. Nowicki discussed a new test method for Methyl-Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) sorbent performance evaluation. MTBE is a water soluble organic that needs a new test method to evaluate sorbent performance of its degree of functional active sites for MTBE. Classical iodine number determinations have been shown to be inadequate for estimating MTBE sorbent performance.

Henry Perlee presented “Computerized Instrument for GAC Heat-of-Immersion Measurement to Estimate Remaining GAC Service Life.” An ASTM draft method for a new test method based on heat-of-immersion was made available by Turk. Many conferees provided comments  and suggestions for a new ASTM test method. 

References available online at

Sponsored Recommendations

ArmorBlock 5000: Boost Automation Efficiency

April 25, 2024
Discover the transformative benefits of leveraging a scalable On-Machine I/O to improve flexibility, enhance reliability and streamline operations.

Rising Cyber Threats and the Impact on Risk and Resiliency Operations

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

State of Smart Manufacturing Report Series

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

SmartSights WIN-911 Alarm Notification Software Enables Faster Response

March 15, 2024
Alarm notification software enables faster response for customers, keeping production on track