The pollution of environmental resources is an issue of social concern worldwide. Chemistry is essential for the design of decontamination strategies and analytical approaches to detect and monitor the contamination. Sorptive materials are usually required in both approaches and green synthesis should be used to minimize their own environmental impact. Carbon fibers (CFs) obtained by the pyrolysis of natural cellulose-rich materials fulfill these requirements. In this article, thirty CFs obtained under different conditions are chemically characterized and their sorption ability towards selected pollutants, covering a wide range of polarity, is evaluated. This study provides more profound knowledge related to the polarity of these materials, their interactions with chemical substances and allows the prediction of more appropriate materials (pyrolysis temperature and time) in order to remove the given pollutant. Furthermore, the use of CFs as sorptive materials for the extraction of contaminants from water samples to assist with their instrumental detection is outlined. In this sense, the use of CFs and gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection allows the detection of selected pollutants in the low ng/mL range. Thus, this article provides an integrated approach to the potential of CFs for environmental protection.
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