Catalytic oxidation of TNT by activated carbon

G. K. Vasilyeva, V. D. Kreslavski, P. J. Shea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Activated carbon can remove 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (TNB) from aqueous solution and promote oxidation of TNT. After equilibrating a 0.35 mM TNT solution with activated carbon (0.2-1% w/v), HPLC and GC/MS analysis confirmed the presence of 2,4,6-trinitrobenzaldehyde (TNBAld) and 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (TNB), and provided strong evidence supporting 2,4,6- trinitrobenzyl alcohol (TNBAlc) as an intermediate of TNT oxidation. After 6 d, TNT and its oxidation products were strongly bound to the activated carbon, while TNB was extractable with acetonitrile. Observations indicate that activated carbon catalyzes TNT oxidation to TNBAlc, which is readily oxidized to TNBAld and TNB in the absence of activated carbon under dark conditions. While adsorbed TNB was extractable with acetonitrile, activated carbon promoted rapid TNT oxidation and formation of unextractable residues. Strong binding is attributed to catalyzed oxidation of the TNT methyl group, probably through a free radical mechanism, and subsequent chemisorption of oligomers and polymerized products that are not desorbed from micropores. Our observations indicate TNT oxidation and bound residue formation after sorption by activated carbon increases the effectiveness of activated carbon to decontaminate water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Bound residues
  • Catalyzed oxidation
  • Decontamination
  • Remediation
  • Sorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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