Hydrazinolyzed cellulose-graft-polymethyl acrylate (Cell-g-PMA-HZ), an efficient adsorbent for removal of Cd(II) and Pb(II) from aqueous solution, has been prepared by ceric salt-initiated graft polymerization of methyl acrylate from microcrystalline cellulose surface and subsequent hydrazinolysis. The influences of initial pH, contact time, and temperature on adsorption capacity of Cell-g-PMA-HZ as well as adsorption equilibrium, kinetic and thermodynamic properties were examined in detail. As for Cd(II) adsorption, kinetic adsorption can be explained by pseudo-second-order, while adsorption isotherm fits well with Langmuir isotherm model, from which maximum equilibrium adsorption capacity can be derived as 235.85 mg g−1 at 28 °C. Further thermodynamic investigation indicated that adsorption of Cd(II) by adsorbent Cell-g-PMA-HZ is endothermic and spontaneous under studied conditions. On the other hand, isotherm of Pb(II) adsorption fits well with Freundlich isotherm model and is more likely to be a physical-adsorption-dominated process. Consecutive adsorption–desorption experiments showed that Cell-g-PMA-HZ is reusable with satisfactory adsorption capacity.

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