Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 22, pp 9411–9418 | Cite as

Biochar carrier application for nitrogen removal of domestic WWTPs in winter: challenges and opportunities

  • Su He
  • Lili Ding
  • Xu Wang
  • Yao Pan
  • Haidong Hu
  • Kan Li
  • Hongqiang RenEmail author


Biofilm processes have a better nitrogen removal ability than traditional activated sludge at low temperatures (< 15 °C). Many biofilm processes, as well as integrated biofilm and activated sludge processes, are potential and realizable nitrogen removal upgrading methods for domestic wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Therefore, biofilm packing material is attractive for domestic WWTP upgrading and reconstruction in winter. For a half decade, researchers have successfully applied activated carbon to biochar as biofilm carrier in the wastewater treatment field. Biochar, as a biostable soil amendment with pores and crevices on its surface, has been applied in the soil–plant system, which promoted the adsorption of NH4+ and NO3, decreased N2O emission, transcriptional level of narG, nxrA, and nirS, and changed the microbial community composition for better nitrogen removal. However, in the field of wastewater treatment, the study of biochar-packed process is merely in the laboratory stage of simulated wastewater, which deserves further research in the future. In this mini review, we will discuss the performances of different processes at low temperatures, the related mechanism of the biochar-packed process for nitrogen removal, and other potential applications of biochar carriers.


Low temperature Biochar carrier Domestic wastewater Nitrogen removal 



The authors would like to acknowledge the research facilities provided by the State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, China. We would like to thank Elsevier Language Editing Services for their linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

Funding information

This research was supported by the National Water Pollution Control and Treatment Science and Technology Major Project (Grant No. 2017ZX07204002), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 021114380091), and the National Science and Technology Support Program of China (No. 2014BAC08B04).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals and human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Su He
    • 1
  • Lili Ding
    • 1
  • Xu Wang
    • 1
  • Yao Pan
    • 1
  • Haidong Hu
    • 1
  • Kan Li
    • 1
  • Hongqiang Ren
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, School of the EnvironmentNanjing UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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