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Thiol-Functionalized Adsorbents through Atomic Layer Deposition and Vapor-Phase Silanization for Heavy Metal Ion Removal.

The removal of toxic heavy metal ions from water resources is crucial for environmental protection and public health. In this study, we address this challenge by developing a surface functionalization technique for the selective adsorption of these contaminants. Our approach involves atomic layer deposition (ALD) followed by vapor-phase silanization of porous substrates. We utilized porous silica gel powder (∼100 μm particles, 89 m2 /g surface area, ∼30 nm pores) as an initial substrate. This powder was first coated with ∼0.5 nm ALD Al2 O3 , followed by vapor-phase grafting of a thiol-functional silane. The modified powder, particularly in acidic conditions (pH = 4), showed high selectivity in adsorbing Cd(II), As(V), Pb(II), Hg(II), and Cu(II) heavy metal ions in mixed ion solutions over common benign ions (e.g., Na, K, Ca, and Mg). Langmuir adsorption isotherms and breakthrough adsorption studies were conducted to assess heavy metal binding affinity and revealed the order of Cd(II) < Pb(II) < Cu(II) < As(V) < Hg(II), with a significantly higher affinity for As(V) and Hg(II) ions. Time-dependent uptake studies demonstrated rapid removal of heavy metal ions from aqueous environments, with Hg(II) exhibiting the fastest adsorption kinetics on thiol-modified surfaces. These findings highlight the potential of ALD and vapor-phase silanization to create effective adsorbents for the targeted removal of hazardous contaminants from water.

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