Adsorption of ammonium in aqueous solutions by pine sawdust and wheat straw biochars

Hye In Yang, Kangyi Lou, Anushka Upamali Rajapaksha, Yong Sik Ok, Anthony O. Anyia, Scott X. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Ammonium (NH4 +) is a common form of reactive nitrogen in wastewater, and its discharge to water bodies can lead to eutrophication. This study was conducted to understand NH4 + adsorption mechanisms of pine sawdust and wheat straw biochars in aqueous solutions and the factors affecting NH4 + removal. Biochars were produced by pyrolysing pine sawdust at 300 °C (PS300) and 550 °C (PS550) and wheat straw at 550 °C (WS550). Pseudo-second-order and Redlich-Peterson models best fitted the adsorption data. The PS300 showed the highest NH4 + adsorption capacity (5.38 mg g−1), followed by PS550 (3.37 mg g−1) and WS550 (2.08 mg g−1). Higher H/C and O/C ratios of PS300 (0.78 and 0.32, respectively) indicated the greater presence of functional groups on the biochar’s surface as compared to PS550 (0.35 and 0.10, respectively) and WS550 (0.36 and 0.08, respectively), resulting in different NH4 + adsorption through electrostatic interactions. The dominant mechanism for NH4 + adsorption by the biochars was likely chemical bonding and electrostatic interaction of NH4 + with the surface functional groups. Lower pyrolysis temperature resulted in a higher NH4 + adsorption capacity by the pine sawdust biochar. At the same pyrolysis temperature (550 °C), the biochar made with pine sawdust as the feedstock had a higher NH4 + adsorption capacity than biochar made from wheat straw. We conclude that biochars can be efficient absorbents for NH4 + removal from wastewater, and the removal efficiency can be optimised by selecting different feedstocks or the pyrolysis condition for biochar production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25638-25647
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 1
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Ammonium adsorption
  • Black carbon
  • Charcoal
  • Isotherm
  • Kinetics
  • Wastewater treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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