Competitive removal of pharmaceuticals from environmental waters by adsorption and photocatalytic degradation
This work explores the competitive removal of pharmaceuticals from synthetic and environmental waters by combined adsorption-photolysis treatment. Five drugs usually present in waterways have been used as target compounds, some are pseudo-persistent pollutants (carbamazepine, clofibric acid, and sulfamethoxazole) and others are largely consumed (diclofenac and ibuprofen). The effect of the light source on adsorption of drugs onto activated carbons followed by photolysis with TiO2 was assessed, being UV-C light the most effective for drug removal in both deionized water and river water. Different composites prepared from titania nanoparticles and powdered activated carbons were tested in several combined adsorption-photocatalysis assays. The composites prepared by calcination at 400 °C exhibited much better performance than those synthesized at 500 °C, being the C400 composite the most effective one. Furthermore, some synthetic waters containing dissolved species and environmental waters were used to investigate the effect of the aqueous matrix on each drug removal. In general, photocatalyst deactivation was found in synthetic and environmental waters. This was particularly evident in the experiments performed with bicarbonate ions as well as with wastewater effluent. In contrast, tests conducted in seawater showed adsorption and photocatalytic degradation yields comparable to those obtained in deionized water.