This study uses vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) light with a wavelength of 172 nm as a surface treatment to enhance the adsorption capacity of wood-based activated carbon (AC). The AC surface treatment is performed under three O2 partial pressure conditions—5.0 × 104 Pa, where ozone (O3) effects dominate; 6.3 × 10-6 Pa, where VUV effects dominate; and 1.9 × 103 Pa for a balanced condition. For the O3-dominant condition, only graphene edge defects are etched (no aromatic carbon bonds are etched), resulting in increased surface roughness. When the VUV effects dominate, aromatic carbon bonds are cleaved, which then reacted with O2 or water adsorbed inside the pores. This increased both the number and size of the mesopores. Under the balanced conditions, the water adsorption capacity was enhanced by 45.5%, which is higher than that obtained before VUV exposure or with VUV under other conditions. This is because the surface roughness increased, as well as the pore sizes and numbers under the balanced condition. These results indicate that we can control VUV-based AC surface treatments via O2 partial pressure.
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