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Heavy metal removal from aqueous solutions using engineered magnetic biochars derived from waste marine macro-algal biomass

Eun-Bi Son, Kyung-Min Poo, Jae-Soo Chang,
Published: 1 February 2018

Abstract: Despite the excellent sorption ability of biochar for heavy metals, it is difficult to separate and reuse after adsorption when applied to wastewater treatment process. To overcome these drawbacks, we developed an engineered magnetic biochar by pyrolyzing waste marine macro-algae as a feedstock, and we doped iron oxide particles (e.g., magnetite, maghemite) to impart magnetism. The physicochemical characteristics and adsorption properties of the biochar were evaluated. When compared to conventional pinewood sawdust biochar, the waste marine algae-based magnetic biochar exhibited a greater potential to remove heavy metals despite having a lower surface area (0.97m/g for kelp magnetic biochar and 63.33m/g for hijikia magnetic biochar). Although magnetic biochar could be effectively separated from the solution, however, the magnetization of the biochar partially reduced its heavy metal adsorption efficiency due to the biochar's surface pores becoming plugged with iron oxide particles. Therefore, it is vital to determine the optimum amount of iron doping that maximizes the biochar's separation without sacrificing its heavy metal adsorption efficiency. The optimum concentration of the iron loading solution for the magnetic biochar was determined to be 0.025-0.05mol/L. The magnetic biochar's heavy metal adsorption capability is considerably higher than that of other types of biochar reported previously. Further, it demonstrated a high selectivity for copper, showing two-fold greater removal (69.37mg/g for kelp magnetic biochar and 63.52mg/g for hijikia magnetic biochar) than zinc and cadmium. This high heavy metal removal performance can likely be attributed to the abundant presence of various oxygen-containing functional groups (COOH and OH) on the magnetic biochar, which serve as potential adsorption sites for heavy metals. The unique features of its high heavy metal removal performance and easy separation suggest that the magnetic algae biochar can potentially be applied in diverse areas that require biosorbents for pollutant removal.
Keywords: Adsorption / Biochar / Heavy metal / Magnetic biochar / Magnetic separation / Marine macro-algae

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