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J Environ Manage. 2018 Jun 1;215:324-344. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.03.040.

Significance, evolution and recent advances in adsorption technology, materials and processes for desalination, water softening and salt removal.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, 14115-114, Iran.
Department of Chemical Engineering, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, 14115-114, Iran. Electronic address:
State Key Laboratory of Biochemical Engineering, Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100190, PR China; University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, PR China.
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Universidad de Cantabria, 39005, Santander, Spain.


Desalination and softening of sea, brackish, and ground water are becoming increasingly important solutions to overcome water shortage challenges. Various technologies have been developed for salt removal from water resources including multi-stage flash, multi-effect distillation, ion exchange, reverse osmosis, nanofiltration, electrodialysis, as well as adsorption. Recently, removal of solutes by adsorption onto selective adsorbents has shown promising perspectives. Different types of adsorbents such as zeolites, carbon nanotubes (CNTs), activated carbons, graphenes, magnetic adsorbents, and low-cost adsorbents (natural materials, industrial by-products and wastes, bio-sorbents, and biopolymer) have been synthesized and examined for salt removal from aqueous solutions. It is obvious from literature that the existing adsorbents have good potentials for desalination and water softening. Besides, nano-adsorbents have desirable surface area and adsorption capacity, though are not found at economically viable prices and still have challenges in recovery and reuse. On the other hand, natural and modified adsorbents seem to be efficient alternatives for this application compared to other types of adsorbents due to their availability and low cost. Some novel adsorbents are also emerging. Generally, there are a few issues such as low selectivity and adsorption capacity, process efficiency, complexity in preparation or synthesis, and problems associated to recovery and reuse that require considerable improvements in research and process development. Moreover, large-scale applications of sorbents and their practical utility need to be evaluated for possible commercialization and scale up.


Adsorption materials; Adsorption processes; Desalination; Nano-adsorbents; Water softening

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