Photo-switchable imprinted adsorbent towards a selective phenol recovery from wastewater

Lei Qin, Weifeng Liu, Song Zhou, Yun Qu, Binbin Qian, Yongzhen Yang, Xiwang Zhang, Huanting Wang, Lian Zhang, Xuguang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Here we report the design and synthesis of a novel surface imprinted adsorbent, with an UV-switchable wettability towards an efficient and highly selective phenol recovery from wastewater. The high selectivity of phenol is achieved through surface molecularly imprinted cavities featuring a smart phenol identification function, whilst the UV-switchable wettability is accomplished by the co-loading of nano-sized, photosensitive TiO2 and hydrophobic 3-(trimethoxysilyl) propyl methacrylate imprinted layer. Through numerous adsorption experiments and extensive characterizations including FESEM, TEM, FT-IR, BET, XRD, XPS, and synchrotron NEXAFS, it is confirmed that upon a prior 0.5 h - long UV irradiation, the imprinted surface of the as-synthesized adsorbent can be switched from hydrophobic to hydrophilic, which in turn results in an equilibrated adsorption capacity of 8.24 mg-phenol/m2-adsorbent that are superior over all the reported values. More intriguingly, with the progress of the adsorption in the dark, the surface of the adsorbent can be gradually reversed to hydrophobic. This in turn enhances the repulsion of particles from the aqueous phase, leading to a quick self-agglomeration and precipitation of the spent adsorbent for an easy recovery. Moreover, 98% of the adsorbed phenol can be recovered via a subsequent washing by methanol, and the regenerated adsorbent is also confirmed to exhibit a nearly stable adsorption capacity upon five cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129549
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Issue numberPart 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Hollow carbon spheres
  • Phenol recovery
  • Reversible wettability
  • Selective adsorption
  • Surface molecular imprinting

Cite this