Background: Air pollution has become an important issue worldwide due to its adverse health effects. Among the different air contaminants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are liquids or solids with a high vapor pressure at room temperature that are extremely dangerous for human health. Removal of these compounds can be achieved using nanomaterials with tailored properties such as carbon nanotubes.
Methods: Vertically-aligned multiwall carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were successfully grown on quartz filters by means of plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). Furthermore, a plasma treatment was performed in order to modify the surface properties of the CNTs. The adsorption/desorption processes of three chlorinated compounds (trichloroethylene, 1,2-dichlorobenzene and chloroform) on the CNTs were studied using mass spectrometry measurements with a residual gas analyzer.
Results: The adsorption capability of the CNTs increased after functionalization of their surface with a water plasma treatment. In addition, it was found that the presence of aromatic rings, water solubility and polarity of the VOCs play an important role on the adsorption/desorption kinetics at the CNTs surface.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the applicability of CNTs deposited on quartz filters for the removal or selective detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The presence of aromatic rings in VOCs results in π-stacking interactions with a significant increase of their adsorption. On the other hand, it was found that CNTs surface interactions increase with water solubility and polarity of the VOC.
Keywords: Volatile organic compounds, carbon nanotubes, adsorption, air pollution