Biochar as low-cost sorbent of volatile fuel organic compounds: potential application to water remediation

  • Ruth Saiz-RubioEmail author
  • María Balseiro-Romero
  • Juan Antelo
  • Elena Díez
  • Sarah Fiol
  • Felipe Macías
Low cost organic and inorganic sorbents to fight soil and water pollution


Pyrolysis of waste materials to produce biochar is an excellent and suitable alternative supporting a circular bio-based economy. One of the properties attributed to biochar is the capacity for sorbing organic contaminants, which is determined by its composition and physicochemical characteristics. In this study, the capacity of waste-derived biochar to retain volatile fuel organic compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) and fuel oxygenates (FO)) from artificially contaminated water was assessed using batch-based sorption experiments. Additionally, the sorption isotherms were established. The results showed significant differences between BTEX and FO sorption on biochar, being the most hydrophobic and non-polar contaminants those showing the highest retention. Furthermore, the sorption process reflected a multilayer behaviour and a relatively high sorption capacity of the biochar materials. Langmuir and Freundlich models were adequate to describe the experimental results and to detect general differences in the sorption behaviour of volatile fuel organic compounds. It was also observed that the feedstock material and biochar pyrolysis conditions had a significant influence in the sorption process. The highest sorption capacity was found in biochars produced at high temperature (> 400 °C) and thus rich in aromatic C, such as eucalyptus and corn cob biochars. Overall, waste-derived biochar offers a viable alternative to be used in the remediation of volatile fuel organic compounds from water due to its high sorption capacity.


Biochar Sorption BTEX Fuel oxygenates HS-GC-MS Isotherms Water remediation 



The authors thank the laboratory technicians of the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry of the USC for the assistance in biochar characterization and Alvaro Gil from the Ceramic Institute of the USC for the BET measurement. The authors also thank CVAN (Centro de Valorización Ambiental del Norte. Touro, Spain) for the production of the biochar samples.

Funding information

This work was supported by the Group of Excellence GI-1245, AMBIOSOL (Instituto de Investigaciones Tecnológicas, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela; GRC2014/003) financed by Xunta de Galicia and co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER-Galicia) under research project “Micotecnosol”-Conecta Peme 2014 (2014-CE131). The authors belong to the CRETUS Strategic Partnership (AGRUP2015/02), co-funded by FEDER (UE). Dr. Balseiro-Romero was granted a postdoctoral fellowship (Programa de axudas á etapa posdoutoral; ED481B 2017/073) by the Consellería de Cultura, Educación e Ordenación Universitaria (Xunta de Galicia, Spain).

Supplementary material

11356_2018_3798_MOESM1_ESM.docx (171 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 170 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Saiz-Rubio
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • María Balseiro-Romero
    • 1
    • 3
  • Juan Antelo
    • 2
  • Elena Díez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sarah Fiol
    • 2
    • 4
  • Felipe Macías
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil Science and Agricultural ChemistryUniversidade de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Technological Research InstituteUniversidade de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  3. 3.UMR ECOSYS, AgroParisTechUniversité Paris-SaclayThiverval-GrignonFrance
  4. 4.Department of Physical ChemistryUniversidade de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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