Theses and Dissertations


Mlsna, Todd E.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Chemistry


Heavy metals are a recognized toxic environmental contaminant, even at very low concentrations. There have been well-known events in the last decade within the US of high amounts of lead in the drinking water supplies of cities, leading to detrimental effects within its population. Ways have been found to remove this metal, and others, from water with expensive adsorbents. The aim of the first part of this research was to create an inexpensive adsorbent from a waste material and modify it in such a way that it would be adept at removing heavy metals from water.

In Chapter I, we were able to remove lead, copper, and cadmium using our peanut shell-based activated carbon, getting a high amount of metal adsorption when the activated carbon was activated with phosphoric acid, pyrolyzed, and then cooled under a nitrogen atmosphere. The activated carbon was characterized and found to have a BET surface area of 781 m2g-1 and a Langmuir maximum isotherm capacity of 100.2 mg/g. By using the data obtained in this work, it could lead to the development of further economically made adsorbents to be used to provide more people with clean drinking water.

The second part of our work focused on the benefit of a hands-on approach to chemical education. In Chapter IV, we discuss the development and implementation of our NSF-funded summer research experience for undergraduates program, as well as the student-reported results from their 10-week research experience. These surveys showed consistent self-reported growth among the student cohort in the skill sets that were focused on during the program.

Chapter V focuses on the development, application, and analysis of results for a novel home-based laboratory component for a semester-long organic chemistry course. It featured 12 lab activities: 8 hands-on experiments and 4 online modeling exercises. By developing and sharing this off-campus approach, we hope to provide an option for other universities that are looking for at-home laboratory experiences for their own students. Overall, we found that these approaches to experiencing chemistry in a hands-on way were beneficial to students and provided them with a greater interest in chemistry.