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An activated carbon for picking up heavy metals

By Chemical Engineering |

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS, Beltsville, Md.; www.ars.usda.gov) has received a patent on a process for producing activated carbon from poultry litter, which consists of bedding materials such as sawdust and peanut shells, along with droppings and feathers. U.S.-grown broiler chickens and turkeys produce an estimated 15-million tons/yr of litter, according to the ARS. The process was developed and has been laboratory-tested at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center (New Orleans, La.). Litter is ground into a fine powder, pelletized, then pyrolyzed at 1,300–1,500°F in a nitrogen atmosphere. Unlike conventional activated carbon, produced from coal, the ARS material has a relatively high concentration of phosphorous, which adds a negative charge. This enables the carbon to adsorb heavy metal ions, such as those of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc, says Isabel Lima, a research chemist at the center. Lima estimates that the process could produce activated carbon for about $1.44/kg, or 65¢/lb. This compares with roughly $1/kg for coal-derived carbon. However, she points out that conventional activated carbon is commonly used to adsorb organics. The adsorption of metal ions would require post-treated carbon or ionic…
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