Pyrolysis temperature and steam activation effects on sorption of phosphate on pine sawdust biochars in aqueous solutions

Kangyi Lou, Anushka Upamali Rajapaksha, Yong Sik Ok, Scott X. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Biochar can be used as an adsorbent for phosphate removal in aquatic environments to treat eutrophication problems. Designing biochars that have large phosphate adsorption capacity through altering pyrolysis conditions and applying activation techniques will improve phosphate removal efficiency. In this study, four pine sawdust biochars were produced at 300 and 550 °C with and without steam activation. Batch sorption experiments including isotherm and kinetic studies were conducted to understand how phosphate removal capabilities and adsorption mechanisms of biochars were affected by pyrolysis temperature and steam activation. Our results showed that the steam activation and pyrolysis temperature did not affect phosphate adsorption by the biochars. The four biochars removed <4% of phosphate from the aqueous solution, which were not affected by the pH of the solution and biochar application rate. The repulsion forces between biochar surfaces and phosphate ions were likely the cause of the low adsorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Speciation and Bioavailability
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 12
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted with financial support from an NSERC CREATE Grant that supported the Land Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS) and the Helmholtz- Alberta Initiative that was funded by the Alberta government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s).


  • Black carbon
  • Charcoal
  • Designer biochar
  • Engineered biochar
  • Steam activation
  • Surface modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Chemical Health and Safety
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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