Granular biochar compared with activated carbon for wastewater treatment and resource recovery

Tyler M. Huggins, Alexander Haeger, Justin C. Biffinger, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


Granular wood-derived biochar (BC) was compared to granular activated carbon (GAC) for the treatment and nutrient recovery of real wastewater in both batch and column studies. Batch adsorption studies showed that BC material had a greater adsorption capacity at the high initial concentrations of total chemical oxygen demand (COD-T) (1200 mg L−1), PO4(18 mg L−1), and NH4(50 mg L−1) compared to GAC. Conversely the BC material showed a lower adsorption capacity for all concentrations of dissolved chemical oxygen demand (COD-D) and the lower concentrations of PO4(5 mg L−1) and NH4(10 mg L−1). Packed bed column studies showed similar average COD-Tremoval rate for BC with 0.27 ± 0.01 kg m−3 d−1and GAC with 0.24 ± 0.01 kg m−3 d−1, but BC had nearly twice the average removal rate (0.41 ± 0.08 kg m−3 d−3) compared to GAC during high COD-Tconcentrations (>500 mg L−1). Elemental analysis showed that both materials accumulated phosphorous during wastewater treatment (2.6 ± 0.4 g kg−1and 1.9 ± 0.1 g kg−1for BC and GAC respectively). They also contained high concentrations of other macronutrients (K, Ca, and Mg) and low concentrations of metals (As, Cd, Cr, Pb, Zn, and Cu). The good performance of BC is attributed to its macroporous structure compared with the microporous GAC. These favorable treatment data for high strength wastewater, coupled with additional life-cycle benefits, helps support the use of BC in packed bed column filters for enhanced wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-232
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


  • Activated carbon
  • Biochar
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Sustainability
  • Wastewater


Dive into the research topics of 'Granular biochar compared with activated carbon for wastewater treatment and resource recovery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this