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The prevalence of antibiotics in water creates microbial resistance and has a negative impact on the ecosystem. Biomaterials such as spent tea leaves are rich in functional groups and are suitable for chemical modification for diverse applications. This research proposes the use of spent tea leaves of chamomile (CM), green tea (GT), and peppermint (PM) as structural scaffolds for the incorporation of carboxyl, sulfonyl, and thiol groups to improve the adsorption of Penicillin G (Pe). Adsorbents characterization reported a higher number of acidic functional groups, mainly in thiolated products. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis showed changes on the surfaces of the adsorbents due to reaction conditions, with a stronger effect on thiolated and sulfonated adsorbents. Elemental analysis by Energy dispersive X-ray spectrophotometry (EDS) corroborated the chemical modification by the presence of sulfur atoms and the increase in oxygen/carbon ratios. Batch experiments at different pH shows a strong pH-dependence with a high adsorption at pH 8 for all the adsorbents. The adsorption follows the trend CMs > GTs > PMs. Thiolation and sulfonation reported higher adsorptions, which is most likely due to the sulfur bridge formation, reaching adsorption percentages of 25%. These results create a new mindset in the use of spent tea leaves and their chemical modifications for the bioremediation of antibiotics.


This article was originally published in Clean Technologies, available at doi:10.3390/cleantechnol1010008.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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