This study consists of producing high surface area activated carbon from tobacco residues by chemical activation and its behavior of phenol removal from aqueous solutions. K2CO3 and KOH were used as chemical activation agents and three impregnation ratios (50,75 and 100 wt.%) were applied on biomass. Maximum BET surface areas of activated carbons were obtained from impregnation with 75 wt.% of K2CO3 and 75 wt.% of KOH as 1635 and 1474 m(2)/g, respectively. Optimum adsorption conditions were determined as a function of pH, adsorbent dosage, initial phenol concentration, contact time and temperature of solution for phenol removal. To describe the equilibrium isotherms the experimental data were analyzed by the Langmuir, Freundlich, Dubinin-Radushkevich (D-R) and Temkin isotherm models. Pseudo-first order, pseudo-second order and intraparticle diffusion kinetic models were used to find out the kinetic parameters and mechanism of adsorption process. The thermodynamic parameters such as Delta G degrees, Delta H degrees and Delta S degrees were calculated for predicting the nature of adsorption. According to the experimental results, activated carbon prepared from tobacco residue seems to be an effective, low-cost and alternative adsorbent precursor for the removal of phenol from aqueous solutions. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.