Characteristics of Ground Granular Activated Carbon for Rapid Small-Scale Column Tests


The rapid small-scale column test (RSSCT) has become a popular method for sizing granulated activated carbon (GAC) systems and columns for water treatment facilities. In this procedure, the GAC is ground and a specific size fraction is used for the RSSCT. Since GAC is produced and activated using different processes from different starting materials (e.g., bituminous, lignite, wood, etc.), the possibility exists that the extent of activation and, hence, the adsorptive capacity and surface reactivity may vary throughout the GAC particles. This would be the case if there were less activated inner cores in the GAC particles. If there is a variation in the sorption properties throughout the GAC particles, then grinding the GAC may result in smaller particles that have different properties than the bulk GAC. This study was carried out to test this commonly assumed hypothesis that the limited-sized ground particles represent the same adsorptive properties as the bulk GAC. Four activated carbons (manufactured from different source carbons) were studied. Gas adsorption tests determined the physical morphology, Boehm's titrations checked the chemical nature of the surface oxides, and the Mohs hardness test was performed on all bulk GACs and ground fractions. No apparent differences were found in the total surface area, cumulative pore volume, or pore size volume of fractions generated by grinding activated carbons. In addition, the Boehm technique did not identify any significant differences in the chemical nature of the surfaces of the various size fractions of GAC. The Mohs hardness test did not indicate any variations in the hardness of the bulk GAC, the ground fractions, and the unground core. Based on the methods and materials used, the underlying assumption in the RSSCT analysis—that there are no variations in the different size fractions of the ground GAC—appears to be correct.


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Second Department

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Adsorption; Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC); Rapid Small-scale Column Test (RSSCT); Water Treatment Plants

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2008 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.