IACC-16 conference delves into activated carbon secrets

Jan. 31, 2006
As a preview to the next event in March, PACS Labs Inc. offers this review of the biannual International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses program near Pittsburgh International Airport on Oct. 1-10. Held twice a year, the conference is the premier activated carbon and related subject conference of the Americas...

By Wayne Schuliger, P.E., Henry Nowicki, Ph.D., and Barbara Sherman

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 24, 2006 -- The biannual International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses program was held near Pittsburgh International Airport on Oct. 1-10, 2005. Held twice per year, the conference is the premier activated carbon and related subject conference of the Americas. Scientists gathered at this year's annual October Pittsburgh, PA, meeting from the U.S. to China, and from Indonesia, India, Mexico, Chile, Germany, Australia, Spain, and Canada. Representatives of the activated carbon industry met to catch up and share the latest news about activated carbon.

The 16th conference was held on October 6-7 and short courses were provided before and after the conference, Oct. 1-5 and Oct. 8-10. Course titles and instructors designed for the activated carbon industry are listed in Table 1. The activated carbon industry is approaching one billion dollars annually in sales, with a 5% to 7% annual growth. Much of the world's population still does not receive the benefits of potable water treatment with activated carbon, even though the technology is readily available and low cost. The short courses are most valuable to activated carbon users product developers regulators and manufacturers. Activated carbon users, as well as many others in the sorbent distribution chain and decision makers, need accurate and unbiased information because they do not obtain it during their formal education. Having optional training courses in conjunction with the Carbon Conferences provides attendees a way to become knowledgeable about activated carbon in a few days.

Summary of major oral talks
This conference provides presenters four venues of presentations: oral, posters, abstract only and products and services. Each conference attendee and non-attendees can provide their products and services for inclusion into the conference proceedings. Only the major oral presentations are provided here. The full Conference Proceedings are available to the public, www.pacslabs.com or from the conference attendees.

Mick Greenbank, from Calgon Carbon Corp., presented the history of his development of the Gravimetric Rapid Pore Distribution (GRPD) technology and presented selected case studies for GRPD applications. His innovative sorbent performance test method is one of the reasons he was awarded the Activated Carbon Hall-of-Fame award in 2002. This is the only test method capable of determining the energy of absorbate(s) binding to activated carbon adsorption active site(s). The GRPD determination results provide the number and distribution of adsorption energy sites (calories per cubic centimeter). From this characteristic curve information, pore size distribution, BET surface area, and Freundlich isotherms in vapor- and aqueous-phase applications are derived using the Polanyi model for heterogeneous adsorbents, like activated carbon.

From Dr. Greenbank's talk it was obvious that many of the secrets held inside activated carbon can be revealed with his method. Being able to determine the source of the raw material to manufacture activated carbon, the degree of activation, the kinetic as well as capacity performance, where impregnants are located in specialty activated carbons, etc. The GRPD offers insight into how activated carbons work at the molecular level not obtainable by present methods.

Jose Arno, from ATMI, presented a paper titled "High Density Activated Carbon for Safe Storage and Delivery of Toxic Gases." The technology is based on filling gas cylinders with nano-porous adsorbing structures to adsorb gas molecules. The adsorption forces reduce the pressure, the major liability in conventional gas filled cylinders. Without pressure inside the system, the driving force leading to potential accidental cylinder gas releases are eliminated. Arno and his colleagues presented a new manufacturing process to mass-produce a high-density nano-porous carbon monolith. Manufacturing the new adsorbent involves: pre-forming a plastic polymer precursor to the desired shape and pyrolyzing the block to generate the porous carbon monoliths.

The conferees provided a lively discussion with Arno about the wide applicability for safe storage and delivery of adsorbates. Many hazardous gases used in computer chip production, government and military applications, in pharmaceutical, speciality chemical, agrochemical, and basic chemical industries are amenable to being stored in an adsorbed phase. Other applications include batteries, high energy density capacitors, as well as storage of fuel-methane and propane for transportation.

Bill Engelleitner provided a talk on new binders to hold granular activated carbon particles together. Carbon blocks are important to water treatment and air treatment in lab hoods. Mr. Engelleitner presents a one-day optional course titled: "Agglomeration Technologies for Particle Enlargement: Briquetting, Pelletizing, Granulation, and Extrusion" the day after the 2-day International Activated Carbon Conference each October in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a noted consultant on this subject.

Dr. Henry Perlee described a new simple low cost instrument to determine the remaining service life in used and new activated carbons. The test method is based on immersion of new and partially used activated carbon into mineral oil and measuring the temperature rise in the oil. The adsorption phenomenon is exothermic, and the more adsorption space which is empty and available to the oil the higher the temperature rise upon immersion into mineral oil. This device is low cost with many applications for the activated carbon industry.

George Alter from Biomin described the use of polar organoclay sorbents to remove humic, fulvic and tannic acids from water. These components impart a yellow to brown color to water, and impart an unpleasant taste and odor to many potable water supplies. Industrial boiler and power plants suffer damage to process equipment due to these natural compounds. The polar organoclays have capacity as much as 50% of its weight for these compounds. The spent organoclay can be regenerated in the same manner as ion exchange resins, several times. On-site regeneration makes these polar organoclays especially cost effective.

Professor Vidic, from the University of Pittsburgh, presented data for a series of new sorbents designed to remove mercury vapor from coal-burning electric power plants. Evan Granite, from the Department of Energy, presented work on a low cost low activation coal based sorbent. The DoE process is designed to be used at electric power plants to make a low activity activated carbon material. The process is based on taking partially burned coal out of the combustion stage in a thief process to make a sorbent for mercury removal in flue gas. The present technologies for flue gas mercury removal are based on powdered activated carbon injection into the duct work followed be its collection in an electrostatic precipitator or bag house. This activated carbon application for mercury removal is expected to create a one billion dollar market for powdered activated carbons. This future market hinges on regulations.

Henry Nowicki from Activated Carbon Services provided a poster titled "GRPD Advantages over Classical Test Methods: Iodine Number and BET Surface Area." A case study was provided to emphasize the GRPD advantages. Four activated carbon samples received ASTM iodine numbers: 1,377; 1,419; 1,419; 1,399 and BET surface area m2/g: 1,351; 1,431; 1,433; 1,361 - milligrams iodine adsorber per gram activated carbon. We recommended that the client have GRPD testing on the four samples and the client accepted. The ASTM methods could not differentiate the field performance the client had observed in the four samples. The client knew that one sample had better kinetics. The GRPD testing revealed the kinetic favored sample and placed their performance relative to a known coconut shell activated carbon with Iodine Number of 1,200.

The GRPD testing results revealed that the apparent superior performance of the client Iodine Numbers was not confirmed by GRPD. A 1,200 iodine number standard coconut shell activated carbon tested better than the 1,399 thru 1,419 client Iodine Numbers. The computer generated isotherms from the GRPD data also confirmed that the ASTM Iodine test overstated performance. Most activated carbon purchasing agents specify Iodine Number, this GRPD data clearly shows that improvements to the purchasing process needs to be looked at, very hard.

If a soldier is wearing an activated carbon containing gas mask or drinking water from a carbon based filter where life or death is at stake, the GRPD test method should have been used in the carbon selection purchasing process. The GRPD is the only test method capable of providing the adsorption energy distribution of the adsorption site(s) in the sorbent. Difficult to remove molecules such as military agents need to have high energy binding sites, 25-30 calories per cc of nano-adsorption space. Additionally, the high energy sites react faster than lower energy sites. This difference in kinetics relative to adsorption energy helped us to reveal the one sample out of four which the client observed was providing faster reaction in their application.

Dr. Nowicki concluded his presentation by informing the conferees that a commercial GRPD machine is expected to be available by the 18th International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses program on Oct. 19-20, 2006. Presently only PACS is providing client GRPD instrument runs and data interpretations for clients. The whole world needs to have access to GRPD machines. Dr. Nowicki stated that the commercial instrument is intended to carry the name of the original inventor of the instrument, Dr. Mick Greenbank.

Best Presentations at IACC-16
The participants at the 16th International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses program (IACC-16) voted Dr. Mick Greenbank and Dr. Hugh McLaughlin, P.E., the best presentations in the oral and poster sessions.

Dr. Hugh McLaughlin, P.E., president of Waste Min Inc., received the best poster award for his paper titled "Low Temperature Reactivation of Spent Activated Carbons." Dr. Mick Greenbank, a senior surface chemist with Calgon Carbon Corp., in Pittsburgh, PA, received the best oral presentation award for his back-to-back presentations titled "History and Development Gravimetric Rapid Pore Distribution (GRPD) Method" and "Case Studies and Applications for the GRPD Technology."

Activated Carbon Hall-of-Fame
Dr. Gary Hatch, director of R&D for Pentair Filtration Inc., received the Hall-of-Fame award. This award is designed to honor individuals who have provided significant contributions to the activated carbon industry. Nomination letters are sought for future awardees.

Dr. Hatch is well known for his work in using activated carbon in POU/POE water treatment devices. He provided a plenary lecture which highlighted the major advances made by his research team and a history and future of the POU market. A luncheon was held to honor the new and past hall-of-fame awardees. The public can recommend individuals for further hall-of-fame awards.

Leadership speakers program
Kenneth Schaeffer, from Carbon Resources Ltd., provided the Leadership Speaker Talk. This is a very popular part of the conference because it provides some needed directions to grow the activated carbon industry. This growth is a major interest for conference attendees because it provides a window into the cutting edge of thinking. This early information helps scientists to work on the right things. Ken emphasized that activated carbon is a global product manufactured on six continents. Ken covered the manufacture processes. The industry has the capacity to produce a billion pounds of product per year at about 100 production facilities world-wide. Ken emphasized the current major issues in the industry: alternative competitive products, shipping regulations, energy and labor costs, leachable compounds, regulations, new material supply and quality and Mother Nature. Recommendations for future Leadership Speakers are welcomed. Individuals who have ideas on growing the activated carbon industry are welcomed to contact Dr. Nowicki, at the address below.

Future activated carbon conferences
In 2006, the International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses programs will be held and Pittsburgh on Oct. 19-20, 2006. In 2007, Australia and, in 2008, China will be sites for the biannual IACC events. Every October, the carbon conference is always held in Pittsburgh, PA. The technical program is on the pacslab.com website in early May and the conference and short courses are delivered in mid-October in Pittsburgh. This is the premier event to learn about activated carbon.

About the authors
With over 30 years of experience designing, operating, and trouble shooting vapor and liquid phase activated carbon systems, Wayne Schuliger, P.E., ([email protected]) is the technical director for PACS Labs Inc., in Pittsburgh. Henry Nowicki, Ph.D., ([email protected]) directs the day-to-day testing, and consulting services provided by PACS. Barbara Sherman ([email protected]) directs the day-to-day short courses and conference business for PACS.

Among other PACS news items:

Call for Papers October 2006 Activated Carbon Conference
The 18th International Activated Carbon Conference (October 19-20, 2006) and Short Course program (Oct. 14-18 and Oct. 21-23, 2006) will be held near the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania International Airport at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. A $200 discount is given on the Registration Form until August 15, 2006. You are invited to send one-page abstracts for presentation of your work and send marketing sheets about your firm's products and services.

Presentations are in three areas: oral presentations of 25 minutes, posters, and abstracts only. Speakers who can provide Leadership talks to help the carbon industry advance are welcome. You can send a nomination letter on behalf of an outstanding individual for the Activated Carbon Hall of Fame award. All presentations require a one-page abstract for our review. Author notification of acceptance is within 72 hours.

The technical program will be posted at http://pacslabs.com mid-May. All conference and short course attendees can submit 100 copies of their marketing sheets for inclusion into the Conference Proceedings "Products and Services" section at no cost to participants. Conference Proceedings are given to each conference participant as part of their registration fee. If not attending, proceedings are available for purchase. Conference Proceedings consist of attendee lists, abstracts, posters, Hall of Fame awardee and Leadership Speaker presentations and all of the conference presentations are included on a disk. For information [email protected] or call 724-457-6576 .

Stanton Smith Received Activated Carbon Hall of Fame Award
The 17th International Activated Carbon Conference and Courses program Hall-of-Fame award has been accepted by Stanton Smith. Mr. Smith has contributed to the manufacture of activated carbons from a wide variety of raw starting materials. Smith was involved in the projects to find new activated carbon raw starting materials when the supply of coconut shell activated carbon from the Philippines was cut off during World War II. The government-sonsored project led to the use of bituminous coal as a raw material source for the manufacturer of activated carbons with performance against war gases. Smith has also made contributions to the chemical impregnations of activated carbons. Mr. Smith's alternate source concepts and manufacturing process for activated carbons are still pursued by many scientists world-wide today. The award will be presented at IACC-17 in Orlando, FL, on March 6. Send your nomination letters to [email protected] or call 724-457-6576 to speak with Dr. Henry Nowicki, Conference Chairman or refer to www.pacslabs.com if you need further information.

Activated Carbon Hall-of-Fame Nomination Letters Sought
Nomination letters are sought for the 18th and 19th International Activated Carbon Conference & Courses programs for the Activated Carbon Hall-of-Fame Award. This award is presented to a very worthy individual at each activated carbon conference. Information is available at pacslabs.com and questions are welcomed. The nomination process is open all of the time. There are two annual carbon conference events. The fall conference is always in October in Pittsburgh, PA. The 18th conference is Oct. 19-20 in Pittsburgh and the 19th conference is in Sydney, Australia, July 1-6, 2007. If you know an outstanding individual who has helped grow the activated carbon industry, you should consider nominating them for this prestigious award. Criterion for this award is not limited to narrow considerations. Considerations for this award include inventions, new manufacturing, modification of carbons, stewardship, new products and services, educators, business developers both domestic and international, products and services that synergies with to activated carbons and other considerations. Send your nomination letters to [email protected] or call 724. 457. 6576 to speak with Dr. Henry Nowicki, Conference Chairman, or refer to www.pacslabs.com if you need further information.