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Suteu, D., and Malutan, T. (2013). "Industrial cellolignin wastes as adsorbent for removal of methylene blue dye from aqueous solutions," BioRes. 8(1), 427-446.


Cellolignin, a by-product from the wood processing industry, was studied as a new, eco-friendly adsorbent for the removal of methylene blue cationic dye from aqueous solutions, using a batch adsorption procedure. Experimental data were processed in order to study the equilibrium, thermodynamics, and kinetics of methylene blue adsorption onto cellolignin. Between the two studied isotherm models (Freundlich and Langmuir) the Langmuir model better described the equilibrium adsorption data at temperatures higher than 25 °C; the mean free energy (E) values obtained from the Dubinin-Radushkevich isotherm model show that the sorption of dye occurs via surface electrostatic interactions with the active sites of the cellolignin. The equilibrium data were used to calculate the free energy, enthalpy and entropy changes, and isosteric heat of adsorption (ΔHX). Results confirm the feasibility and the endothermic nature of the adsorption process, suggesting that adsorption is a physico-chemical process. The isosteric heats of adsorption indicated energetic heterogeneity of adsorption sites and possible interactions between the adsorbed dye molecules. Kinetic assessment suggests that the adsorption process followed a pseudo-second order model and the rate-limiting step may be the binding of dye onto the adsorbent surface. The diffusion models show that intraparticle diffusion is not the sole rate-limiting step; the external mass transfer also influences the adsorption process in its initial period.

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Industrial Cellolignin Wastes as Adsorbent for Removal of Methylene Blue Dye from Aqueous Solutions

Daniela Suteu a,* and Teodor Malutan b

Cellolignin, a by-product from the wood processing industry, was studied as a new, eco-friendly adsorbent for the removal of methylene blue cationic dye from aqueous solutions, using a batch adsorption procedure. Experimental data were processed in order to study the equilibrium, thermodynamics, and kinetics of methylene blue adsorption onto cellolignin. Between the two studied isotherm models (Freundlich and Langmuir) the Langmuir model better described the equilibrium adsorption data at temperatures higher than 25 °C; the mean free energy (E) values obtained from the Dubinin-Radushkevich isotherm model show that the sorption of dye occurs via surface electrostatic interactions with the active sites of the cellolignin. The equilibrium data were used to calculate the free energy, enthalpy and entropy changes, and isosteric heat of adsorption (ΔHX). Results confirm the feasibility and the endothermic nature of the adsorption process, suggesting that adsorption is a physico-chemical process. The isosteric heats of adsorption indicated energetic heterogeneity of adsorption sites and possible interactions between the adsorbed dye molecules. Kinetic assessment suggests that the adsorption process followed a pseudo-second order model and the rate-limiting step may be the binding of dye onto the adsorbent surface. The diffusion models show that intraparticle diffusion is not the sole rate-limiting step; the external mass transfer also influences the adsorption process in its initial period.

Keywords: Cellolignin; Equilibrium; Isosteric heat of adsorption; Kinetics; Methylene blue; Thermodynamics

Contact information: a: “Gheorghe Asachi” Technical University of Iasi, Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Protection, Department of Organic, Biochemical and Food Engineering, 71A Prof. Dr. Docent D. Mangeron Blvd, 700050 Iasi, Romania; b:“Gheorghe Asachi” Technical University of Iasi, Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Protection, Department of Natural and Synthetic Polymers, 71A Prof. Dr. Docent D. Mangeron Blvd, 700050 Iasi, Romania; e-mail:; *Corresponding author: e-mail:; fax: +40 232 271 311


Dyes are frequently used in different industries, such as textile, rubber, paper, plastics, leather, food, and cosmetics, and may generate large amounts of aqueous, colored effluents. It is estimated that there are currently more than 10,000 commercially available dyes with an annual production of over 0.7 million tons worldwide, of which 10 to 15% is lost in industrial effluents during manufacture and processing operations (Zaharia et al. 2012; Anjaneyulu et al. 2005). Releasing colored effluents into natural bodies of water has become a major source of water pollution, causing many significant problems. The presence of very small amounts of dye in water (< 1 ppm for some dyes) causes aesthetic deterioration and diminishes the solubility of dissolved oxygen, water transparency, and sunlight permeability, affecting aquatic life and the food chain (Zaharia and Suteu 2012a). In addition, some dyes and/or their degradation products (e.g., aromatic amines) may have toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic effects on the health of humans and aquatic organisms.

Environmental legislation has become stricter in many countries, allowing only low effluent color limits and, consequently, requiring color removal from wastewater before its discharge, making dye one of the major issues in wastewater pollution. Because many dyes are resistant to microbial attack and stable to actions of light, heat, and oxidizing agents, treatment of dye-containing wastewater is difficult. However, the treatment of wastewater contaminated with dyes is necessary in order to comply with international regulations regarding the quality of the effluent discharged into the environment.

In the case of colored wastewaters, color can be expressed by the absorbance measured in comparison with a blank with distilled water at three characteristic wavelengths: 436, 525, and 620 nm, in accordance with the Romanian standard SR ISO 7887-97 or by the Hazen color index (ISO 1973). The Hazen color index represents the conversion of absorbance measured at 456 nm to Hazen units (HU) (i.e., an absorbance of 0.069 at 456 nm corresponds to 50 HU) (Zaharia and Suteu 2012b). The limits of HU units imposed by environmental legislation are < 200 in surface water and < 50 UH in sewage systems (Anjaneyulu et al. 2005; Zaharia 2008). In the case of industrial wastewater, an absorbance measurement at 436 nm in the supernatant (apparent color) or filtrate (real color) is compulsory.

Textile effluent characteristics vary, so that the treatments for color removal include many different physical, chemical, and biological treatment methods, such as coagulation-flocculation, adsorption on activated carbon, ozonation, membrane processes, electrochemical treatment, and aerobic or anaerobic biodegradation. The advantages and disadvantages of each technique have been extensively reviewed (Anjaneyulu et al. 2005; Zaharia and Suteu 2012b; Latif et al. 2010; Suteu et al. 2009; Han et al. 2011; Hubbe et al. 2012; Salleh et al. 2011; ).

Adsorption is an efficient and economical method for removing dyes from industrial effluents. In this process, a substance (soluble dye) from the liquid phase (wastewater) is transferred to the surface of a solid, highly porous material (adsorbent), to which it binds physically or chemically (Zaharia and Suteu 2012b). The adsorption technique is preferable to other wastewater treatment techniques in terms of efficiency, low cost, simplicity, ease of operation, and inactivity towards toxic substances. Moreover, the specific advantage of this method is that the adsorbent can be chosen from a large variety of materials. The selection of an adsorbent is based on the following requirements: high selectivity and capacity of adsorption, favorable kinetic features, physico-chemical stability, mechanical strength, ease of regeneration, and availability at low cost (Zaharia and Suteu 2012b). Unconventional low cost materials are used more and more as adsorbents in dye-containing wastewater as alternatives to conventional adsorbents, such as activated carbon or synthetic polymers, in order to avoid several disadvantages related to the latter (high cost, difficulties in preparation and/or regener-ation, pollution resulting from their manufacture). Low cost, abundance, high adsorption properties, and potential for ion exchange are the main characteristics of low-cost adsorbents. These adsorbents, used in batch or dynamic conditions, can be naturally occurring materials (wood, peat, coal, chitin and chitosan, biomass, clays, etc.), as well as industrial/agricultural wastes or byproducts (fly ash, red mud, blast furnace slag, metal hydroxide sludge, sawdust, bark, lignin, sunflower stalks, maize cob, rice husk, hazelnut shells, olive stones, seashell, etc.) (Zaharia and Suteu 2012a,b; Crini 2006; Bozlur et al. 2012; Suteu et al. 2009; Ayan et al. 2011; ;  Zhang et al. 2011a ; Sulak and Yatmaz, 2012).

Some of the various bio-adsorbents investigated for removal of dyes from aqueous solutions are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Brief Review of Applications of Bio-adsorbents in Removal of Dyes

The aim of this work is to evaluate the efficiency of using cellolignin – a by-product of the wood industry – as adsorbent for the removal of methylene blue (MB) from an aqueous environment. Equilibrium, thermodynamic, and kinetic studies were performed with this purpose in mind. The obtained results give some insight with respect to utilization of cellolignin as an eco-friendly adsorbent in textile industry wastewater treatment. Thus, these results may be applied for predicting the adsorption mechanism, for characterization and optimization of the process, and for equipment and process design.




The adsorption experiments were carried out using cellolignin as an adsorbent. The cellolignin is a residual lignocellulosic material resulting from the production of furfural from chestnut wood. It was provided by Tanin Sevnica, Slovenia, and was used without other physical-chemical treatment. The main physical characteristics of cellolignin (from the guidelines of the manufacturer) were: solids: 93%, solubility: > 90% in aqueous alkali (1% aqueous NaOH). The chemical composition included: 47.2% cellulose, 0.6% xylan, 0.3% mannan, and 47.4% lignin. The total OH group content comes to 4.53 mmol/g, the specific surface area (SBET) of the sample, calculated from adsorption isotherm data using the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller method (BET) (Brunauer et al. 1938) is 63 m2/g, and the particle size is 210 m. The FT-IR spectrum of cellolignin (Fig. 1) revealed the presence of numerous peaks assigned to various functional groups of cellulose and lignin structures, some of which are able to interact with molecular or ionic species (species like 3408 cm-1 O-H stretch in alcohols, phenols, 1714 cm-1 C=O stretch in non-conjugated ketones and carboxyl groups, 1610 cm-1stretching vibration of C=O in conjugated ketones, 1365 cm-1 O-H bending, 1057 cm-1 stretching vibration of C-O of alcohol groups, 900-350 cm-1skeletal deformation of aromatic rings) in lignin (Bodirlau et al. 2008; Malutan et al. 2008).


Methylene blue (Basic Blue 9; Standard Fluka AG) is a phenotiazine cationic dye (C.I. 52015) with molecular formula C16H18N3SCl, MW = 319.85 g/mol, and a heterocyclic aromatic chemical structure. It is generally used as a model basic dye (target contaminant) in studies concerning techniques for textile wastewater decolorization (Rafatullaf et al. 2010), and for this reason it was chosen for this study.

Fig. 1. FT-IR spectrum of cellolignin


Equilibrium adsorption experiments

Batch adsorption experiments were performed in 150 mL conical flasks by mixing 0.1 g of cellolignin with 25 mL aqueous methylene blue solution of a known concentration. The concentration of aqueous dye stock solution was 320 mg/L; the working solutions with concentrations between 19 and 280 mg/L were obtained by appropriate dilutions. The flasks were placed in a thermostatic bath (Poleko SLW 53) at three constant temperatures: 5, 25, and 45 °C. The initial pH of the aqueous dye solutions was nearly neutral (6.5-7) and was adjusted to the required value using 1N HCl and NaOH solutions. After a contact time of 24 h, the cellolignin was separated by filtration, and the dye concentration into filtrate was determined spectrophotometrically (see analytical methods).

The data resulting from the adsorption experiments were used to evaluate the cellolignin adsorption capacity, (mg of dye/g of cellolignin),


and the percent of dye removal, R%,


where C0 and are the initial and the residual dye concentrations (mg/L), G is the adsorbent mass (g), and V is the solution volume (L).

Kinetic adsorption experiments

The influence of contact time on the adsorption of dye by cellolignin powder was studied in batch experiments, mixing 0.1 g of cellolignin and 25 mL of MB solution (64 mg/L, pH = 6.5-7) at temperatures of 5, 25, and 45 °C for time intervals ranging from 10 min to 6 h. Finally, the adsorbent was separated by filtration and the dye content in the remaining aqueous phase was analyzed using a similar procedure to the equilibrium experiments. The extent of adsorption was expressed by the fractional attainment of equilibrium, F,


where qt and q (mg/g) are the dye adsorbed at time and at equilibrium (24 h).

Analytical methods

The residual concentrations of MB in filtrate samples were determined spectrophotometrically by measuring the absorbance at the maximum dye wavelength of 660 nm with a JK-VS-721N VIS spectrophotometer and interpolating using a calibration curve (working concentration range in the Lambert-Beer region is 1.3-5.1 mg/L).

Infrared spectroscopic measurements of the cellolignin powder were recorded on a FT-IR BioRad spectrometer FTS2000 with 4 cm-1 resolution for 32 scans, using KBr pellets.

Nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms at 77 K were obtained with a Sorptomatic Carlo – Erba Series 1800 apparatus. Surface area was calculated with BET equation (Brunauer et al. 1938).

Adsorption Modeling

Isotherm models

The experimental data were processed using three of the most well known adsorption isotherm models, as presented in Table 2 (Crini and Badot 2008; Foo and Hameed 2010), in order to obtain information about the adsorption capacity, the degree of affinity, and surface characteristics of the cellolignin, as well as to establish the equilibrium relationship and mechanism of MB adsorption onto the studied adsorbent.

Kinetic modeling

Generally, the dye adsorption process at the solid-liquid interface could be described by the following steps: (i) diffusion of the dye molecules from bulk solution to the adsorbent surface through the boundary layer (film diffusion), (ii) diffusion of dye ions from the surface into the pores of the solid particle (pore diffusion or intraparticle diffusion), and (iii) interaction of dye with the active sites on the surface of the adsorbent (Crini and Badot 2008).

Table 2. Equations and Parameters of the Applied Adsorption Isotherm Models

The overall adsorption rate is controlled by the slowest step, but a combined effect of a few steps is also possible. Several theoretical treatments have been proposed to describe the kinetics of adsorption. These kinetic models can be grouped in two classes: adsorption reaction models and adsorption diffusion models (Siminiceanu et al. 2010; Hameed and El-Khiary 2008). The kinetic models chosen to model the data from this study are presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Equations and the Parameters of the Applied Kinetic Models*

*(Crini and Badot 2008)


Effect of Solution pH on Dye Adsorption

The effect of the pH on the MB adsorption onto cellolignin was studied in solutions with initial dye concentration of 89.6 mg /L and cellolignin dose of 4 g/L within pH range 1 to 9 adjusted by adding HCl or NaOH solutions (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Effect of pH on dye adsorption onto cellolignin C0= 89.6 mg dye/L; 4g adsorbent/L, 24h, T = 25 oC

Adsorption Equilibrium

Adsorption isotherms describing the distribution of MB between solid (cellolignin) and liquid phases at three temperatures are shown in Fig. 3.

In order to find the most suitable correlations for the equilibrium curves and to understand the dye behavior in the case of adsorption of MB by the cellolignin, the isotherm models presented in Table 1 were used. The specific isotherm parameters were calculated from the slope and y-intercept of the plots lg q vs. lg C, 1/q vs. 1/C, and ε2 vs. ln q. The results are listed in Table 4. The conformity between experimental data and the model-predicted values was estimated using the coefficient of determination for the linear regression R2 (Table 4).

The comparison of the experimental data with the Freundlich, Langmuir, and Dubinin-Radushkevich isotherms, as shown in Fig. 3, suggests that at 5oC, the Freundlich model is more suitable for simulation of adsorption isotherms. At increased temperatures (25oC and 45oC) the Langmuir isotherm is the best one in simulation of the sorption isotherms; however, when increased adsorbent loading was used, the Freundlich model gave a better fit.

Fig. 3. Adsorption isotherms of MB on the cellolignin at three temperatures with the results fitted to the Freundlich equation (—), Langmuir equation (___) and D-R equation (……); ◆, ▲, ■: experimental points

The coefficient of determination values (R> 0.97) confirmed a good agreement between the experimental data and Freundlich isotherm parameters; the fractional values of the Freundlich constant 1/n as a measure of adsorption intensity, showed efficient adsorption.

Table 4. Characteristic Parameters of the Adsorption Isotherm Models for MB Adsorption by Cellolignin

The Langmuir model also gave a good fit with the MB adsorption isotherms onto the cellolignin (R2 > 0.97). The highest value of monolayer adsorption capacity, q0, was 121.95 mg MB/g cellolignin and was reached at 45 °C. By decreasing the temperature, the adsorption capacity of cellolignin also decreased. However, the value obtained at 25°C (95.238 mg/g) is comparable with the Langmuir capacities of other low-cost materials used for MB sorption (Rafatullah et al. 2010). Thus, for the maximum (monolayer) adsorption capacity of this dye onto adsorbents based on lignocellulosic wastes, the literature reports a wide range of values: 914.59 mg/g obtained in the case of teak wood bark as adsorbent, 141.92 mg/g for pumpkin seed hull, 99 and 99.01 mg/g for coconut husk and coffee husk, respectively, 38.22 mg/g in the case of hazelnut shell, 18.149 mg/g for rice husk ash, and 9.78 mg/g for raw beech sawdust (Chowdhury et al. 2009; Rafatullah et al. 2010). The values of the Langmuir isotherm parameter KL, which defines the strength of interactions between cationic dye and adsorption sites from the cellolignin, increased with increasing temperature.

The value of the mean free energy per molecule of adsorbate, E, calculated using the Dubinin-Radushkevich equation (Table 4), increased from 9.534 kJ/mol at lower temperatures (5°C), up to 11.785 kJ/mol at a temperature of 45°C. Values around 10 are quite small, but even so they are in the domain characteristic for an ion exchange mechanism, i.e., 8 to 16 kJ/mol (Foo and Hameed 2010). This suggests that MB binding onto cellolignin may be due to relatively weak van der Waals forces, hydrogen bonding, dipole-dipole interactions, and strong electrostatic interactions between the negatively charged surface of the cellolignin (as a result of dissociation of lignin phenolic hydroxyl and carboxyl groups) and the cationic dye.

Thermodynamic Parameters

The thermodynamic parameters of the adsorption process, such as free energy change (ΔG0), enthalpy change (ΔH0), and entropy change (ΔS0), give information about spontaneity, heat change, and the degree of freedom of the adsorbed species. They are also very important for predicting the adsorption mechanism, for characterization and optimization of the process, as well as for equipment and process design.

Based on the values of free energy change and enthalpy change, two types of adsorption processes have been detected. Generally, the change in free energy from -20 to 0 kJ/mol and the enthalpy up to 4.2 kJ/mol are characteristic of physical adsorption (due to relatively weak van der Waals attraction forces), whereas the change in free energy between -80 and -400 kJ/mol and enthalpy more than 21 kJ/mol indicate chemical adsorption (due to stronger interactions involving ionic or covalent bonding sorbate-sorbent) (Senturk et al. 2010; Weng et al. 2008; Chen et al. 2011; Khormaei et al. 2007).

The thermodynamic parameters of the studied adsorption systems were determined using the values of the Langmuir constant, KL (expressed in L/mol), and conventional equations for ΔG0, ΔH0, and ΔS0 (Crini and Badot 2008):


ΔG0 = ΔH0 TΔS0 (5)

where ΔG0 is free energy (kJ/mol), ΔH0 is enthalpy (kJ/mol), ΔS0 is entropy change (J/mol K), R is the gas ideal constant (8.314 J/mol K), and T is the absolute temperature (K).

The values of ΔG0 were obtained from Equation 3. ΔH0 and ΔS0 were determined from the slope and intercept of the plot of free energy change versustemperature (Fig. 4) and are listed in Table 5.

Table 5. Thermodynamic Parameters of the Adsorption of MB Dye onto Cellolignin

Fig. 4. Plot of free energy change versus temperature

The negative values of ΔG0 indicate the feasibility and spontaneity of MB adsorption by cellolignin. A decrease in the negative value of ΔG0 concomitant with an increase of temperature shows that the adsorption process is more favorable at higher temperatures, probably as a result of the increased mobility of dye species in solution.

The positive value of enthalpy change shows that the adsorption process is endothermic. The positive values of ΔS0 indicate the affinity of the cellolignin towards the adsorbed dye and a high (increased) randomness at the solid/solution interface with some structural changes in the adsorbate and the adsorbent. These changes could be ascribed to the displacement of water molecules sorbed on the solid surface (which is released into the bulk solution) with dehydrated dye cations.

As seen from Table 5, the values of thermodynamic parameters obtained in this study suggest that the adsorption of MB by cellolignin is a combined physico-chemical process. Various interactions such as π-π dispersive interactions between aromatic rings of the lignin and conjugated structure (–N=C–C=C–) of the MB, hydrogen bonding interactions (–OH of the cellolignin as the hydrogen donor and nitrogen atoms from MB as the hydrogen acceptor), as well as electrostatic interactions (ion exchange) between cationic dye and weak acid sites of the adsorbent (different carboxylic and phenolic groups of the lignin with various dissociation constants) are assumed to have occurred.

The effects of heat during the adsorption process are better described by the isosteric heat of sorption (ΔHX), defined as the energy difference between the state of the system before and after adsorption of a differential amount of adsorbate on the adsorbent surface. To calculate the isosteric heat of adsorption, the Clausius-Clapeyron equation was used (Chowdhury et al. 2011),

 or  (6)

where is the equilibrium concentration of adsorbate in the solution (mg/L) at a constant amount of surface load, R is the ideal gas constant, and T is the temperature (K).

The slope of the plot of ln C vs. 1/T gives ΔHX/R. The magnitude of ΔHX provides information about whether physical adsorption (ΔHbelow 80 kJ/mol) or chemical ion exchange adsorption (ΔHX ranges between 80 and 400 kJ/mol) has taken place. Additionally, ΔHX values can be used to assess the adsorbent surface heterogeneity (Saha and Chowdhury 2011). The isosteres for the adsorption of MB on cellolignin (from the adsorption data at different temperatures and at a constant amount of retained dye) are given in Fig. 5.

The isosteric heat of adsorption (35.21 kJ/mol, 29.455 kJ/mol, 28.303 kJ/mol, and 28.209 kJ/mol for q = 10 mg MB/g, 20 mg/g, 30 mg/g, and 40 mg/g, respectively) was calculated using data from Fig. 5. The calculations confirmed that the adsorption process is endothermic in nature and follows a physical adsorption mechanism.

The ΔHX variation with cellolignin surface loading can be attributed to the possibility of lateral interactions between the adsorbed molecules (Saha and Chowdhury 2011). At lower q values, cellolignin-dye interactions take place with high heats of adsorption; with increasing surface coverage, dye-dye interactions occur with lower adsorption heat values. This behavior may be the result of the association of MB to form dimers or larger aggregates in a solution and in the adsorbed state, especially at an increased dye concentration (Abd El-Latif et al. 2010; Qi et al. 2011).

Fig. 5. Plots of ln C versus 1/T for the adsorption of methylene blue on cellolignin at constant surface coverage

Kinetic Study

The adsorption kinetic study is important in predicting the mechanisms (chemical reaction or mass-transport process) that control the rate of the pollutant removal and retention time of adsorbed species at the solid-liquid interface (Bulut and Aidin 2006). That information is important in the design of appropriate sorption treatment plants.

The effect of contact time of the phases on removal of MB by cellolignin from solutions of initial concentration equal to 64 mg MB/L at three different temperatures (5 °C, 25 °C, and 45 °C) is presented in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6. Effect of contact time on the methylene blue sorption onto cellolignin

The values of fractional attainment of equilibrium increased with both contact time and temperature. The dye adsorption was fast, especially during the first hour (about 50% of the MB was adsorbed within the first 15 min). Afterward, the rate of adsorption gradually decreased. The retention time required for maximum dye removal decreased from 6 h to 2 h with increasing temperature (from 5 °C to 45 °C). After that, only a minor change was observed, which led to the assumption that the system reached the equilibrium point.

The experimental kinetic data for MB adsorption by cellolignin were processed using the kinetic models shown in Table 3. The kinetic parameters related to each model, calculated from the intercepts and slopes of the corresponding linear plots (Fig. 7), are presented in Table 6. The fitting of each model to the experimental data was estimated using the linear regression correlation coefficient, R2.

Table 6. Kinetic Parameters of Methylene Blue Adsorption by Cellolignin

As can be seen from Table 6, the values for the coefficient of determination (R2 > 0.97) indicate that the pseudo-first order kinetic model verifies the experimental data for all temperatures. The rate constants of pseudo-first order adsorption, k1, increase with an increase in temperature. However, values of experimental q and calculated q from the Lagergreen model differ appreciably. This shows that MB adsorption by cellolignin cannot be best described by a pseudo-first order model.

The coefficient of determination for the pseudo-second order kinetics was greater than 0.99 and good agreement between experimental and calculated qvalues indicate the applicability of a pseudo-second order model in predicting the kinetics of MB adsorption by cellolignin for the entire adsorption period. Thus, the rate-limiting step of the process may be the binding of MB dye at the active sites of the adsorbent surface. Similar behavior has been observed in the retention of MB by other adsorbents such as shells (Bulut and Aidin 2006) and rice husk (Vadivelan and Kumar 2005). The calculated values of maximum adsorption capacity, q, as well as of rate constants of pseudo-second order, k2, increase as the temperature increases, confirming the endothermic nature of the adsorption process. h values also reflect the initial adsorption rate increase with an increase of temperature.

Usually, the adsorption rate is governed by either liquid phase mass transport or intra-particle mass transport. In order to get information about the diffusion mechanism, the kinetic results were analyzed by the intra-particle diffusion model. If the Weber-Morris plot (versus t1/2) is linear, then intra-particle diffusion occurs. Moreover, if the line passes through the origin, intra-particle diffusion is the sole rate-limiting step. The multi-linearity of the plots indicates that two or more steps influence the adsorption process (Qi et al. 2001; Han et al. 2009).

Graphical representation of the MB amount adsorbed by cellolignin versus t1/2 (Fig. 7c) exhibited two line segments for each temperature. The first part is usually attributed to external mass transfer (film diffusion) (Walker et al. 2003), while the second linear part indicates intraparticle diffusion into the porous structure of the adsorbent (Srivastava et al. 2006). The y-intercept of the two linear portions (c value) is a measure of the thickness of the boundary layer; the larger the value of c, the greater is the boundary effect. The data from Table 6 suggest the involvement of intraparticle diffusion in the adsorption of MB by cellolignin (pore diffusion), but that it is not the sole rate-limiting step of adsorption. The intraparticle rate constants (kd2) decrease with an increase of temperature, whereas the boundary effects increase with an increase of temperature.

The two phases in the intraparticle diffusion plot suggest that the adsorption process proceeds by surface diffusion and intraparticle diffusion. In order to establish the rate-limiting step, the kinetic data were analyzed using the kinetic model of Boyd (Table 3), based on the assumption that particle diffusion is not the sole rate-controlling process. Using the Reichenberg equation applicable at F values less than 0.85, the Bt values were calculated at different time intervals for MB adsorption by cellolignin. If the plot of Bt versus time is linear and passes through the origin, the adsorption is governed by an intraparticle diffusion mechanism. If the plot is nonlinear or the straight lines deviate from the origin, the adsorption is controlled by external transport (film diffusion) or by chemical reaction (Hameed and El-Khaiary 2008). As can be seen from Fig. 7d, the relation between Bt and t is linear at all temperatures, but the straight line does not pass through the origin (see Fig. 7d and intercept value from Table 6), showing that in the initial period of the process, the slowest step in adsorption of MB by cellolignin may be either film diffusion or chemical reaction (binding of MB to active surface sites).

The B values (slope of the straight line obtained from time versus Bt graph) can be used to calculate the effective diffusion coefficient from Equation 7,


where r is the radius of the adsorbent particle assuming spherical shape (cm), and Di is the effective diffusion coefficient (cm2/s).

Knowing that the cellolignin particles used had of the average size range 210 µm, the film diffusion coefficients for the three temperatures were calculated and listed in Table 6.

The obtained values of the effective film diffusion coefficient provide an indication that film diffusion could be the rate-determining step (Di, in the range 10-6 to 10-8 cm2/ sec.) (Karthikeyan et al. 2010).

Evaluation of activation energy

The activation energy in adsorption processes is defined as the energy necessary for the adsorbate species to interact with the adsorption sites on the surface of the solid phase. This parameter determines how dependent the adsorption rate is on temperature. The activation energy for the adsorption of MB onto cellolignin can be evaluated using the Arrhenius equation (Eq. 8) (Chowdhury et al. 2011; Ozkaya 2005).

 , or in linear form:  (8)

where k2 is the adsorption rate constant of the pseudo-second order adsorption model, g/mg∙min, k0 is the temperature independent factor, Ea is the activation energy of adsorption (kJ/mol), R is the gas constant (8.314 j/mol K), and T is the temperature in K.

The values of activation energy and k0 factor determined from the slope and intercept of the Arrhenius plot (Fig. 8) are 13.56 kJ/mol and 1.436, respectively. The value of activation energy also provides information on the physical and chemical nature of the adsorption process. It was suggested that the activation energy for the physisorption process ranges from 5 to 40 kJ/mol, while chemisorption involves a high activation energy (40 to 800 kJ/mol) (Wu 2007). Additionally, Lazaridis and Asouhidou suggested that low activation energy values (< 25 to 30 kJ/mol) indicate diffusion-controlled processes (Lazaridis and Asouhidou 2003).

The positive Ea value confirms the endothermic nature of MB adsorption onto cellolignin, which is characteristic of a physical process controlled by diffusion. This is in agreement with other results of this study, and also with the results of Han et al. (2009).

Fig. 8. The Arrhenius plot for the adsorption of MB onto cellolignin

Capitalization of the Adsorbent Loaded with Dye

The possibilities of valorization of the adsorbent loaded with dye must be evaluated in order to ensure the disposal of these materials in environmentally safe conditions. For this purpose, according to the goal and the actual situation, the following options may be considered: (i) burning after drying; (ii) capitalization; (iii) use for composite materials; (iv) composting processes of biodegradable wastes; (v) regeneration by treatment with acid or organic solvent solutions and reuse in other cycles of dye adsorption – desorption; (vi) continued use as a new adsorbent material for heavy metal ion or dye removal from aqueous media or for adsorbent for variants of affinity chromatography; (vii) evaluating a possible bacteriostatic effect of the dyed material to make it suitable for a microbial treatment processes of wastewater.


  1. In order to discover the adsorption mechanism of the cationic dye methylene blue from an aqueous environment with a pH of 6.5 to 7 onto cellolignin, studies on equilibrium, thermodynamic, and kinetics were carried out in batch systems.
  2. The equilibrium adsorption data analyzed by Freundlich, Langmuir, and Dubinin-Radushkevich isotherm models confirmed that both Freundlich and Langmuir isotherms describe the equilibrium adsorption data well. The monolayer adsorption capacity of 95.2 mg/g reached at 25 °C is in accordance with previously reported data on adsorption capacity of different low cost adsorbents. The values of the mean free energy (E) obtained from the Dubinin-Radushkevich model suggest that weak van der Waals forces (dipole-dipole interactions, hydrogen bonding) and electrostatic interactions contribute to the adsorption of the methylene blue by cellolignin.
  3. The values of thermodynamic parameters confirm the feasibility and the endothermic behavior of the adsorption process and suggest that the adsorption is a physico-chemical process.
  4. The values of isosteric heat of adsorption (ΔHX), assessed using the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, slightly decrease with an increase of the adsorbent surface loading, suggesting the energetic heterogeneity of adsorption sites toward dye retention and the presence of interactions between the adsorbed dye molecules. The ΔHX values also correspond to the physical adsorption mechanism and confirm the endothermic nature of the process.
  5. Kinetic data at three temperatures were analyzed using different kinetic models (pseudo-first order, pseudo-second order, intra-particle diffusion model, and Boyd- Reichenberg model). The results showed that MB adsorption by cellolignin follows pseudo-second order kinetics and that mass transport (surface diffusion and pore diffusion) influences the overall rate of the adsorption process.
  6. The positive value of Ea calculated using the Arrhenius equation confirms the endothermic nature of MB adsorption onto cellolignin. This behavior is characteristic of a physical process controlled by diffusion.
  7. Taking into account the results of this study, one may conclude that cellolignin can be considered a promising, eco-friendly adsorbent, with low-cost production for the removal of dyes from an aqueous environment.


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Article submitted: September 26, 2012; Peer review completed: November 1, 2012; Revised version received: November 8, 2012; Accepted: November 17, 2012; Published: December 3, 2012.