Pharmaceutical residues are emerging pollutants in the aquatic environment and their removal by conventional wastewater treatment methods has proven to be ineffective. This research aimed to develop a three-dimensional reduced graphene oxide aerogel (rGOA) for the removal of diclofenac in aqueous solution. The preparation of rGOA involved facile self-assembly of graphene oxide under a reductive environment of L-ascorbic acid. Characterisation of rGOA was performed by Fourier transform infrared, scanning electron microscope, transmission electron microscopy, nitrogen adsorption-desorption, Raman spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. The developed rGOA had a measured density of 20.39 ± 5.28 mg/cm3, specific surface area of 132.19 m2/g, cumulative pore volume of 0.5388 cm3/g and point of zero charge of 6.3. A study on the simultaneous interactions of independent factors by response surface methodology suggested dosage and initial concentration as the dominant parameters influencing the adsorption of diclofenac. The highest diclofenac adsorption capacity (596.71 mg/g) was achieved at the optimum conditions of 0.25 g/L dosage, 325 mg/L initial concentration, 200 rpm shaking speed and 30 °C temperature. The adsorption equilibrium data were best fitted to the Freundlich model with correlation coefficient (R2) varying from 0.9500 to 0.9802. The adsorption kinetic data were best correlated to the pseudo-first-order model with R2 ranging from 0.8467 to 0.9621. Thermodynamic analysis showed that the process was spontaneous (∆G = - 7.19 to - 0.48 kJ/mol) and exothermic (∆H = - 12.82 to - 2.17 kJ/mol). This research concluded that rGOA is a very promising adsorbent for the remediation of water polluted by diclofenac.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.