Insight into mechanism of aged biochar for adsorption of PAEs: Reciprocal effects of ageing and coexisting Cd2+

Fanqi Jing, Saran Sohi, Yuyan Liu, Jiawei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biomass derived biochar is a stable carbon-rich product with potential for soil amendment. Introduced into the natural environment, biochar will naturally experience ‘ageing’ processes that are liable to change its physicochemical properties and the mobility of sorbed pollutants over the longer term. To elucidate the reciprocal effects of biochar ageing and heavy metal adsorption on the affinity of biochar for organic pollutants, we systematically assessed the adsorption of diethyl phthalate (DEP), representative of phthalic acid esters (PAEs), to fresh and aged biochars with and without coexistence of Cd2+. Long-term oxidative ageing was simulated using 5% H2O2 and applied to biochar samples made from corn cob, maize straw and wheat straw made by pyrolysis at both 450 °C and 650 °C. Our results showed that biochar made at lower temperature (450 °C) and from straw exhibited the higher adsorption capacity, owing to their greater polarity and abundance of O-containing functional groups. The adsorption of DEP onto fresh biochars was found to be driven by van der Waals force and H-bonding. Biochar made at the higher temperature (650 °C) displayed higher carbon stability than that produced at lower pyrolysis temperature. Oxidized biochar showed lower adsorption capacity than fresh biochar owing to the formation of three-dimensional water clusters on biochar surface, which blocked accessible sites and decreased the H-bonding effect between DEP and biochars. The coexistence of Cd2+ suppressed the sorption of DEP, via competition for the same electron-rich sites. This indicates that cation/π-π EDA interactions are the primary mechanism for PAE and Cd2+ stabilization on biochar. Our study sheds light on the mechanism of organic pollutant sorption by biochar, as well as the potential susceptibilities of this sorption to ageing effects in the natural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1107
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2018


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