Environmental friendly cellulose/chitin beads, having relatively high mechanical properties, were successfully prepared from a blend of cellulose and chitin in 6 wt % NaOH/5 wt % thiourea aqueous solution by coagulating with 5% H2SO4 aqueous solution. The ability of the beads to adsorb Pb2+ in an aqueous solution was measured with a fixed-bed column. The effects of important parameters, to design an adsorption column of the cellulose/chitin beads for fixed-bed columns, were investigated. The breakthrough curves for the adsorption behavior indicated that the column performance was improved with decreasing initial lead concentration, ionic strength, flow velocity or bead size, as well as increasing pH dependence and bed height. Column studies showed that constants, calculated from the experimental data, and the Bed Depth Service Time (BDST) model had a good correlation. The columns were easily regenerated by treating with 0.1 mol/L HCl aqueous solution after the adsorption of metals, providing a simple and economical method for removal and recovery of heavy metals. After four adsorption–desorption cycles, the efficiency of column for the removal of lead was not significantly reduced (not more than 5%). It is shown that heavy-metal biosorption processes in fixed-bed columns could give a broad range of potential industrial applications. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 94: 684–691, 2004
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