A review of biochar-based catalysts for chemical synthesis, biofuel production, and pollution control

Xinni Xiong, Iris K.M. Yu, Leichang Cao, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Shicheng Zhang, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

410 Citations (Scopus)


This review addresses the use of biochar as a green and versatile catalyst support for emerging high-end applications beyond soil remediation, including chemical synthesis and biodiesel production from biomass, and pollutant degradation in the environment. Their catalytic performances are comparable or even superior to the conventional resin-, silica-, or carbon-based catalysts, owing to the favourable intrinsic features of biochar (various functional groups, intricate network of structures, etc.). Yet, distinctive active sites are needed for different applications. It is highlighted that the active site accessibility for substrates critically determines the performance, which is associated with the biochar physicochemical characteristics (–SO3H site density, pore size distribution, surface area, etc.). They show varying significance depending on the catalytic sites on biochar, which may be controlled via novel pre-/post-synthesis modifications. This review elucidates the links among catalytic performances, physicochemical properties, and pyrolysis/modification-induced features, advising the tailored production of application-oriented biochar-based catalyst in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-270
Number of pages17
JournalBioresource technology
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Acid-catalyzed conversion
  • Biochar
  • Biorefinery
  • Solid catalyst
  • Waste valorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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