Enhanced removal of ammonium from water using sulfonated reed waste biochar-A lab-scale investigation

Ming Zhang, Ruyi Sun, Ge Song, Lijun Wu, Hui Ye, Liheng Xu, Sanjai J. Parikh, Tuan Nguyen, Eakalak Khan, Meththika Vithanage, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The removal of excessive ammonium from water is vital for preventing eutrophication of surface water and ensuring drinking water safety. Several studies have explored the use of biochar for removing ammonium from water. However, the efficacy of pristine biochar is generally weak, and various biochar modification approaches have been proposed to enhance adsorption capacity. In this study, biochar obtained from giant reed stalks (300, 500, 700 °C) was modified by sulfonation, and the ammonium adsorption capabilities of both giant reed biochars (RBCs) and sulfonated reed biochars (SRBCs) were assessed. The ammonium adsorption rates of SRBCs were much faster than RBCs, with equilibrium times of ∼2 h and ∼8 h for SRBCs and RBCs, respectively. The Langmuir maximum adsorption capacities of SRBCs were 4.20–5.19 mg N/g for SRBCs, significantly greater than RBCs (1.09–1.92 mg N/g). Physical-chemical characterization methods confirmed the increased levels of carboxylic and sulfonic groups on sulfonated biochar. The reaction of ammonium with these O-containing functional groups was the primary mechanism for the enhancement of ammonium adsorption by SRBCs. To conclude, sulfonation significantly improved the adsorption performance of biochar, suggesting its potential application for ammonium mitigation in water.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118412
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan 1

Bibliographical note

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  • Adsorption
  • Ammonium
  • Biochar
  • Engineered biochar
  • Sulfonation
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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