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Mechanisms for the removal of Cd(II) and Cu(II) from aqueous solution and mine water by biochars derived from agricultural wastes

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The capacity of biochars derived from agricultural wastes to remove Cd(II) and Cu(II) from aqueous solution and contaminated mine water was evaluated using laboratory-based batch sorption experiments. To examine immobilization of heavy metals, biochars produced in a commercial-scale mobile pyrolizer from feedstocks: poultry litter; lucerne shoot; vetch shoot; canola shoot; wheat straws; and sugar-gum wood, were tested in a liquid-based system. Biochars were characterized by FTIR, XPS and XRD before and after the mine water treatment. Lucerne biochar had the highest Langmuir sorption capacity of Cd(II) (6.28 mg g−1) and vetch-derived biochar had the highest Cu(II) sorption capacity (18.0 mg g−1) at pH 5.5. All the biochars exhibited higher sorption capacity for Cu(II) than for Cd(II). The smaller ionic radius and higher electronegativity of Cu(II), and the PO43−, CO32− and N-containing functional groups of biochars enhanced their binding affinity. The results demonstrated that poultry litter-derived biochar was effective at removal of the Cd(II) and Cu(II) from mine water up to the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation. The results revealed that precipitation with CO32− and PO43−, complexation with –OH and –COOH groups and electrostatic interaction with O-containing surface functional groups were the main mechanisms involved in the removal of multi-metals by biochars, and that selection of feedstock materials for biochar production is important to maximise remediation of multi-metals in contaminated water.


We thank Earth system Pty. Ltd for providing biochar and mine water, Dominic Lauricella, Kevaly Vongsouthi, Huang Dan and Chenlu Lou for material collection, preparation and biochar analysis. Tharanga Bandara received La Trobe University Full-Fee Research Scholarship and Postgraduate Research Scholarship.


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