Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

Educating the World on Activated Carbons

By Henry Nowicki, Wayne Schuliger, Barbara Sherman and George Nowicki

The last few years have been exciting for the activated carbon industry. Several new applications are emerging that will significantly grow the size of the activated carbon industry and improve its quality of services. Those new applications include:

• Growth in global POU/POE devices
• Using biochars to enhance soils to make them more productive for agricultural growth and gas-phase carbon dioxide removal for global climate control
• Cleaning bottom sediments in rivers, lakes and industrial waste pounds using specialty activated carbons
• Vapor-phase mercury control at coal-fired electric power plants using new types of activated carbons
• Growth in using activated carbons in developing nations to improve drinking water microbiology quality and reduce the impacts of industrial pollutants
• Improving human health and the environment

Activated carbon (AC) purifies water and air of contaminants; this is the major use for the tons of activated carbon sold each year. Carbon, however, has a long list of other uses too numerous to mention here. Activated carbon is a subject that you do not learn about in academic training, but it is critical to many industrial, commercial, municipal and residential products. There are many different brands and forms of AC, of which the direct and indirect indirect economic impact amounts to $6 billion (USD) annually. It is a mature industry with several new products expected in the next few years. The AC industry is recession-proof, with about a five-percent annual growth rate.

Conference, courses and proceedings

The bi-annual conference and school—unique in that it is highly focused—brings together a body of knowledgeable and motivated individuals to accomplish this mission: increase the size and quality of the AC industry and related issues and products. By providing activated carbon short courses before and after conferences, attendees can quickly learn the basics and the latest products, and network with individuals who can help them solve their real-world problems. Being able to take relevant short courses on the same trip as the conference is cost-effective for attendees, especially international conferees. The IACC and carbon school is spread out over ten days to allow individuals to be exposed to a full array of learning opportunities. It is possible to take courses without attending the one- to two-day conferences. All conference and course attendees can add product and service information to the conference proceedings at no extra cost; non-attendees may add their marketing information. A bound, products-and-services notebook is designed to inform attendees and non-attendees about products and service providers who can help make them successful.

Conference proceedings are available to non-attendees one week after completion of each conference; non-attendees can add their marketing materials without attending. The proceedings consist of the attendee list, abstracts and biographical sketches of platform speakers, poster presentations and abstract-only presenter abstracts, which are designed for preliminary work that may have later commercial value.

Range of conference issues

The range of conference issues is determined by prior attendees; their comments and suggestions are, and have been, the steering body for present and future conferences. The steering body has changed the tone and direction of the conference over the last two decades, but not the overall design. Presenting courses before and after the conference is a relatively constant part of that design. Proposed issues and topics to be covered are surprisingly quite broad and deep. Those most requested are air purification, water purification, test methods, new test methods, arsenic control, mercury control at coal-fired electric power plants and municipal wastewater plants, legal issues, marketing and sales, new activated carbons, impregnation methods, catalytic carbons and networking. At IACC, it is our job to seek, find, put together and deliver what prior and future attendees want or need. Conference providers are dedicated to the activated carbon subject and many are willing to join and contribute to the cause. Some of the above topics and more will be provided at the upcoming 2011 International Activated Carbon Conferences in Seattle, WA and Pittsburgh, PA.

IACC-26 highlights

The 26th International Activated Carbon Conference (IACC-26) held in late 2010 (and its associated activated carbon school program) was another success. The program brought to light some relatively new activated carbon applications, which could result in significant increases in the size of the activated carbon industry. These applications included: biochars for soil enhancements, activated carbons for cleaning up rivers, lakes and pond water bottom sediments of toxic contaminants, and flue gas mercury removal for coal-fired electric utilities.

Dr. Mick Greenbank of Calgon Carbon Corporation opened the oral platform speaker program by discussing catalytic activated carbons. He provided information on why and how to add chemicals to different parts of the pore structure of activated carbons. Several examples were provided on many different commercial products with catalytic activities.

Southwestern Pennsylvania has the highest concentration and density of activated carbonar by. These logistics provide Regulator Carl Spadaro of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection with a working opportunity to have an impact on how other global plants should be regulated. Obviously, he received an earful of comments from local and other manufacturers and reactivators attending the conference. Spadaro agreed to return in October for IACC-28 to continue his guidance for the industry. Dr. Hugh McLaughlin contributed two major technologies: significant technical developments on biochars and new ways to reactivate used activated carbons utilizing relatively low temperatures (a commercial process) compared to classical reactivation processes. Wayne Schuliger, PE, provided the contrasts between aqueousand vapor-phase applications, concentrating on vapor-phase safety and operational characteristics.

Dr. Tim Golden from Air Products provided the major technologies for commercial gases and services in this sector during his Hall of Fame presentation, explaining upcoming products and trends. George Alther from Biomin Inc. provided organoclay applications for extending the service time for activated carbons and target compounds removal, providing information on production methods for different types of organoclays and their advantages. Bill Purves from Mercury One provided new and improved methods for determination of mercury levels in
environmental samples and activated carbons.

Dr. Henry Nowicki presented on the applications for Gravimetric Adsorption Energy Distribution (GAED) full characterization of activated carbons, explaining the economic advantages of using this method to better select the best AC for the application, and when to remove used with unused carbon. Having a carbon last two to three times longer in service offers major financial advantages. Removing the carbon when it has completed its performance also saves money and provides the best quality.

Ken Schaeffer, President of Carbon Resources, LLC, presented a leadership talk on the current status of the AC industry and future projections. George Nowicki presented a software program to comply with the ASTM test method for particle sizing and hardness numbers. He also provided a paper showing the differences between water and acid extractions of metals from activated carbons. Dr. Evan Granite, a senior scientist with the Department of Energy, provided an overview of sorbents used to control vapor-phase mercury. He has developed several technologies at DOE for vapor-phase mercury.

Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge all prior and future individuals contributing to the activated carbon industry growth and its improvements in quality.

References

  1. Activated Carbon School, Henry Nowicki, AC Adsorption: Principles,
    Practices and Opportunities; Wayne Schuliger, Design, Operation and Troubleshooting
    of AC Adsorbers.

About the authors

Henry Nowicki, Ph.D., MBA is President of PACS. He functions as the Chairperson for the IACC technical program and provides the introductory course for the activated carbon school. He can be reached at (724) 457-6576 or www.pacslabs.com or email Henry@pacslabs.com.

Wayne Schuliger, P.E. is Technical Director for PACS. He has previously worked for Calgon and TIGG Corporations.

Barbara Sherman, MS is Manager of Operations and a lab technician. She also functions as the Registrar for the PACS short courses and IACC programs. She provides logistics and letters of invitations for international attendees, and manages day-to-day business and planning.

H. George Nowicki, BA/BA is Laboratory Manager and New Business Developer. He runs the audio-visual equipment at each IACC and coordinates the products and services manual for IACC proceedings.

About PACS

Professional Analytical and Consulting Services Inc. (PACS) is a 27-year-old incorporated firm providing independent services for the analytical, environmental and activated carbon industries; routine and advanced testing; PACS short-course program; R&D; consulting; contract research projects activated carbon school courses and the biannual International Activated Carbon Conferences. Bi-annual PACS activated carbon conferences and activated carbon school events are provided to exchange ideas and good practices for the activated carbon industry. A highly qualified staff of practicing professionals provides one- to two-day short courses and consulting services on various issues. There are some 14 courses on activated carbon in the curriculum because the education covers a wide variety of needed subjects. PACS provides advice to interested parties for the best courses for individual needs. Some AC courses are provided monthly in major cities and at clients’ convenience. For more information, call (724) 457-6576, visit www.pacslabs.com or email Henry@pacslabs.com.

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