Cocoa shell pellets were converted into activated carbon (CSAC) by carbonization at 800°C followed by activation at 850°C in CO2 flow until reaching burn off at approximately 48%. The CSAC was treated with hydrochloric acid (HCl) using response surface methodology (RSM), where the effect of soaking times (1, 2 and 4h), temperatures (30, 50, 70°C) and concentration of HCl (0.1, 1 and 2M) were studied. CSAC treated with 1M HCl at higher temperatures (>60°C) yielded CSAC with low ash content (<10%). Acid-treatment process parameters, particularly the reaction temperature, determined the composition and types of functional groups existing in the CSAC. High concentrations of oxygen functional groups were detected in both untreated CSAC and CSAC treated at low acid concentration (1M). High concentrations of nitrogen functional groups were detected only in CSAC treated at acid concentration (2M). © 2013 The Institution of Chemical Engineers.
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