Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Samy El-Shall

Second Advisor

Hani El-kaderi

Third Advisor

Julio Alvarez

Fourth Advisor

Katharine Tibbetts

Fifth Advisor

Shiv Khanna


Water contaminations by many pollutants, especially heavy metals such as Pb(II), Hg(II), Cu(II), Cd(II), and Cr(VI) pose many public health and environmental concerns as reported in the list of hazardous substances compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency due to their high toxicity, refractory degradation, and ease of entering food chain. Adsorption by chelating resins is proven to be the most effective method for the extraction of metal ions from polluted and wastewater. However, traditional absorbents such as activated carbon, activated alumina, clay, zeolite, etc., show limited adsorption abilities for these heavy metal ions. The major goal of this thesis is to develop efficient and cost-effective adsorbents for the extraction of heavy metals from wastewater. This dissertation will focus on the development of four chemically modified high surface area adsorbents with accessible chelating sites for capturing and retaining toxic metal ions from polluted water.

The first adsorbent, Nitrogen Doped Carboxylated Activated Carbon (ND-CAC), is prepared by a polymerization reaction between melamine and formaldehyde to form the melamine formaldehyde resin (MF-R) followed by carbonization at 800 oC under nitrogen atmosphere to form nitrogen doped carbon (ND-C), and finally oxidation to form the ND-CAC adsorbent. The ND-CAC adsorbent shows high adsorption capacities of 750.5, 250.5, 98.2 mg/g for the extraction of Pb(II), Hg(II), and Cr(VI), respectively from aqueous solutions with a high selectivity to Pb(II).

The second adsorbent, Melamine Zirconium Phosphate (M-ZrP) is prepared by a precipitation reaction between Melamine Phosphate (MP) and ZrCl4 in an aqueous solution. The M-ZrP adsorbent is used for the removal of Pb(II), Hg(II), and Cd(II) with maximum adsorption capacities of 680.4, 119.0, and 60.0 mg/g, respectively with a high selectivity to Pb(II).

The third adsorbent is chemically functionalized metal organic framework (UIO-66-IT) was prepared by post-synthetic modification using the chelating ligand 2-Imino-4-Thioburit. The adsorbent was used to extract Hg(II) and (HPO4)- ions from aqueous solutions and the results revealed exceptionally high adsorption capacities toward mercury and phosphate ions of 700 and 160 mg/g, placing it among the top functionalized MOF known for the high capacity of Hg(II) removal from aqueous solutions.

The fourth adsorbent, Melamine Thiourea Partially Reduced Graphene Oxide (MT-PRGO) prepared by the amidation reaction between chemically modified graphene oxide and melamine thiourea, is used for the effective extraction of Hg(II), Co(II) and Cu(II) from polluted water. The MT-PRGO adsorbent shows exceptional selectivity for the extraction of Hg(II) with a capacity of 651 mg/g, placing it among the top of carbon-based materials known for the high capacity of Hg(II) removal from aqueous solutions.

Desorption studies demonstrate that the new adsorbents ND-CAC, M-ZrP, UIO-66-IT, and MT-PRGO are easily regenerated with the desorption of the heavy metal ions Hg(II), Pb(II), Cd(II), and Cr(VI) reaching 99 % - 100 % recovery from their maximum sorption capacities using different eluents. Moreover, all prepared adsorbents showed tremendous abilities to clean contaminated water from toxic heavy metals at trace concentrations. That prove the ability of using them at water contamination level when the concentration of heavy metals is very low. The new adsorbents ND-CAC, M-ZrP, UIO-66-IT, and MT-PRGO are proposed as top performing remediation adsorbents for the extraction of the heavy metals Pb(II), Hg(II), Cd(II), Cr(VI), and (HPO4)- from waste and polluted water.


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Available for download on Tuesday, December 10, 2024