Thin films containing carboxylic acid groups are deposited on open-cell polyurethane (PU) foams by using an atmospheric pressure non-equilibrium plasma jet, in dielectric barrier discharge configuration, fed with helium, acrylic acid and ethylene. The arrangement of the plasma jet, the sample holder, and the substrate is carefully optimized to enable the penetration of the plasma ejected from the remote source throughout the three-dimensional (3D) porous structure of the foam, and, therefore, to achieve the uniform coverage of the entire substrate. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses and scanning electron microscopy observations confirm that both the outer and the inner surfaces of the foam can be functionalized with the plasma-deposited coating, showing moderate changes in surface chemical composition and coating thickness moving from the exterior to the interior of the plasma-treated samples. The ability of the foams to adsorb heavy metals from water is tested through evaluation of cadmium ions (Cd2+) removal. The foams adsorption capacity can increase more than 10 times after plasma deposition and remains unchanged over 8 adsorption-release cycles.
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