Hydrothermal recycling of carbon absorbents loaded with emerging wastewater contaminants

Christian Wurzer, Pierre Oesterle, Stina Jansson, Ondřej Mašek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Adsorption using carbon materials is one of the most efficient techniques for removal of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals from wastewater. However, high costs are a major hurdle for their large-scale application in areas currently under economic constraints. While most research focuses on decreasing the adsorbent price by increasing its capacity, treatment costs for exhausted adsorbents and their respective end-of-life scenarios are often neglected. Here, we assessed a novel technique for recycling of exhausted activated biochars based on hydrothermal treatment at temperatures of 160–320 °C. While a treatment temperature of 280 °C was sufficient to fully degrade all 10 evaluated pharmaceuticals in solution, when adsorbed on activated biochars certain compounds were shielded and could not be fully decomposed even at the highest treatment temperature tested. However, the use of engineered biochar doped with Fe-species successfully increased the treatment efficiency, resulting in full degradation of all 10 parent compounds at 320 °C. The proposed recycling technique showed a high carbon retention in biochar with only minor losses, making the treatment a viable candidate for environmentally sound recycling of biochars. Recycled biochars displayed potentially beneficial structural changes ranging from an increased mesoporosity to additional oxygen bearing functional groups, providing synergies for subsequent applications as part of a sequential biochar system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120532
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Volume316 Part 1.
Early online date30 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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