The present study examined the roles of the specific surface area (SSA), diameter, and length of carbon nanotubes (CNT) on the adsorption of phenanthrene (PNT) by analyzing the adsorption isotherms obtained with several single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) and multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNT). At low equilibrium concentrations (e.g., 1 ppb), MWNTs with larger outer diameters exhibited higher PNT adsorption capacity on an SSA basis than those with smaller diameters. With increasing equilibrium concentration, adsorption on an SSA basis became independent of MWNT diameter, and the total surface area controlled maximum adsorption capacity. A similar analysis for the adsorption of naphthalene, a planar molecule with one less benzene ring but 20 times higher solubility than PNT, showed no correlation with respect to MWNT outer diameter. The results indicated that the surface curvature of MWNT was more important on the adsorption of PNT than on the adsorption of naphthalene. Specific surface area normalized isotherms did not show a correlation between PNT adsorption and lengths of SWNTs and MWNTs. Characterization results indicated that the morphology of CNTs plays an important role on the SSA and pore volume. Data from the manufacturer may not always represent the characteristics of CNTs in a particular batch. Therefore, accurate characterization of CNTs is critical to systematically examine the behavior of CNTs, such as adsorption and transport, in environmental systems. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:73–78. © 2011 SETAC
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