In the development of industrial life, an enormous amount of silica fume (SF) has been accumulated and cannot be reused properly, and a large quantity of rare-earth elements in industrial wastewater has been inappropriately discharged, both of which pose a threat to human health and the environment. By using UV photocatalytic grafting technology, a polymer brush grafted from modified SF, which can be used as a high efficiency adsorbent, can solve both problems at the same time. Specifically, SF was firstly silanol-functionalized by γ-methacryloxypropyltrimethoxysilane (KH570), then grafted with polyacrylic acid brushes by UV photocatalytic grafting to finally obtain the adsorbent. Under optimal conditions, adsorption capacity of the adsorbent for dysprosium(III) (Dy3+) could reach 278.49 mg/g. It took 1 min for the adsorbent to reach adsorbing equilibrium at a relatively low concentration of Dy3+ (40 mg/L), and only 3 min at a medium and high concentration (130 mg/L and 200 mg/L). After six adsorption–desorption cycles, the adsorbent still possessed high adsorption capacity for Dy3+ (251.20 mg/g). The adsorption behavior of the adsorbent fit the Langmuir isotherm model (R2 > 0.97) and pseudo-second-order kinetic model (R2 > 0.98) well. The functional group of carboxylate anion, -COO, played a central role during the adsorption process, which was verified by Fourier transform infrared and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses.

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