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Mesoporous carbon with embedded iron carbide nanoparticles was successfully synthesized via a facile impregnation-carbonization method. A green biomass resource, cotton fabric, was used as a carbon precursor and an iron precursor was implanted to create mesopores through a catalytic graphitization reaction. The pore structure of the nanocomposites can be tuned by adjusting the iron precursor loadings and the embedded iron carbide nanoparticles serve as an active component for magnetic separation after adsorption. The microstructure of the nanocomposites was carefully investigated by various characterization techniques including electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, surface analyzer, magnetic property analyzer and etc. The newly created mesopores are demonstrated as a critical component to enhance the adsorption capacity of organic dyes and embedded iron carbide nanoparticles are responsible for the selective removal of heavy metal ions (Zn2+, Cu2+, Ni2+, Cr6+ and Pb2+). Isotherm adsorption, kinetic study at three different temperatures (25, 45 and 65 °C) and cycling retention tests were performed to understand the adsorptive behavior of the nanocomposites with organic dyes (methylene blue and methyl orange). Together with the preferable removal of more toxic heavy metal species (Cr6+ and Pb2+), these mesoporous nanocomposites show promising applications in pollutant removal from water. The facile material preparation allows convenient scale-up manufacturing with low cost and minimum environmental impact.

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RSC Advances

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