Activated carbons produced from a variety of raw materials are normally selective towards a narrow range of pollutants present in wastewater. This study focuses on shifting the selectivity of activated carbon from inorganic to organic pollutants using activation temperature as a variable. The material produced from carbonization of pine shells substrate was activated at 250°C and 850°C. Both adsorbents were compared with commercial activated carbon for the sorption of lead, cadmium, methylene blue, methyl blue, xylenol orange, and crystal violet. It was observed that carbon activated at 250°C was selective for lead and cadmium whereas the one activated at 850°C was selective for the organic dyes. The Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy study revealed that AC850 had less surface functional groups as compared to AC250. Point of zero charge and point of zero salt effect showed that AC250 had acidic groups at its surface. Scanning electron microscopy depicted that increase in activation temperature resulted in an increase in pore size of activated carbon. Both AC250 and AC850 followed pseudo-second-order kinetics. Temkin isotherm model was a best fit for empirical data obtained at equilibrium. The model also showed that sorption process for both AC250 and AC850 was physisorption.

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