Faculty Advisor

James C. O'Shaughnessy

Faculty Advisor

Robert W. Thompson

Faculty Advisor

John A. Bergendahl


Many parts of the world are facing water crises due to the lack of clean drinking water. Growing industrialization in many areas and extensive use of chemicals for various concerns has increased the burden of deleterious contaminants in drinking water especially in developing countries. It is reported that nearly half of the population in developing countries suffers from health problems associated with lack of potable drinking water as well as the presence of microbiologically contaminated water [1] . Synthetic and natural organic contaminants are considered among the most undesirable contaminants found in water. Various treatment processes are applied for the removal of organic contaminants from water including reverse osmosis membranes, ion exchange, oxidation, nanofiltration, and adsorption. The adsorption process is a widely-used technology for the removal of organic compounds from water. In this work, the adsorption of chloroform and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) onto granular zeolites was investigated. Zeolites were specifically chosen because they have shown higher efficiency in removing certain organics from water than granular activated carbon (GAC). Batch adsorption experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of several granular zeolites for the removal of MTBE and chloroform from water were conducted and the results compared with GAC performance. Results of these batch equilibrium experiments showed that ZSM-5 was the granular zeolite adsorbent with the greatest removal capacity for MTBE and chloroform from water, and outperformed GAC. Fixed-bed adsorption experiments with MTBE and chloroform were performed using granular ZSM-5. Breakthrough curves obtained from these column experiments were used to understand and predict the dynamic behavior of fixed bed adsorbers with granular ZSM-5. The ii film pore and surface diffusion model (FPSDM) was fit to the breakthrough curve data obtained from the fixed bed adsorption experiments. The FPSDM model takes into account the effects of axial dispersion, film diffusion, and intraparticle diffusion mechanisms during fixed bed adsorption. Generally, good agreement was obtained between the FPSDM simulated results and experimental breakthrough profiles. This study demonstrated that film diffusion is the primary controlling mass transfer mechanism and therefore must be accurately determined for good breakthrough predictions.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





zeolites, adsorption, mathematical modeling, MTBE, chloroform