Study on surface morphology and physicochemical properties of raw and activated South African coal and coal fly ash
South African coal and coal fly ash were selected as the raw materials to be used for study of their morphology and physicochemical properties and their respective activated carbons for adsorption applications. Coal and fly ash were individually steam activated at a temperature range of 550-1000 °C for 1 h in a muffle furnace using cylindrical stainless steel containers. Scanning electron micrographs revealed a change in surface morphology with more mineral matter available on the surface of the coal particles due to increased devolatilization. However, in the case of fly ash, the macerals coalesced to form agglomerates and the presence of unburnt carbon constituted pores of diameter between 50 and 100 nm. The BET surface area of coal improved significantly from 5.31 to 52.12 m 2/g whereas in case of fly ash the surface area of the raw sample which was originally 0.59 m 2/g and upon activation increased only up to 2.04 m 2/g. The chemical composition of the fly ash confirmed that silica was the major component which was approximately 60% by weight fraction. The impact of this study was to highlight the importance of using raw materials such as coal and a waste product, in the form of coal ash, in order to produce affordable activated carbon that can be used in drinking water treatment. This would therefore ensure that the quality of water supplied to communities for drinking is not contaminated especially by toxic organic compounds.