Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 15, pp 14626–14635 | Cite as

Comparison of nickel adsorption on biochars produced from mixed softwood and Miscanthus straw

  • Zhengtao Shen
  • Yunhui Zhang
  • Fei Jin
  • Daniel S. Alessi
  • Yiyun Zhang
  • Fei Wang
  • Oliver McMillan
  • Abir Al-Tabbaa
Research Article


In order to understand the influence of feedstock type on biochar adsorption of heavy metals, the adsorption characteristics of nickel (Ni2+), copper (Cu2+) and lead (Pb2+) onto biochars derived from mixed softwood and Miscanthus straw were compared. The biochars were produced from mixed softwood pellets (SWP) and Miscanthus straw pellets (MSP), at both 550 and 700 °C for each material, using a standardised production procedure recommended by the UK Biochar Research Centre. Kinetics analyses show that the adsorption of Ni2+ to all four biochars reached equilibrium within 5 min. The degree of Ni2+ removal for all four biochars remained nearly constant within initial pH values of 3–8, because the equilibrium pH values within this range were similar due to the buffering effect of the biochars. A sharp increase of Ni2+ removal percentage for all biochars at initial solution pH 8–10 was observed as the equilibrium pH also increased. MSP derived biochars generally had higher maximum adsorption capacities (Qmax) for the three tested metals as compared with those from SWP, which was likely due to their higher degree of carbonisation during production. This study shows that feedstock type is a primary factor affecting the adsorption capacities of the tested biochars for heavy metals.


Biochar Remediation Adsorption Heavy metal Softwood Miscanthus straw 



The standard biochars were obtained from the UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC) at the University of Edinburgh. The authors would like to thank Dr. Ondrej Masek from the UKBRC for his kind help in preparing and delivering the biochar samples. Special thanks also go to Dr. Zhen Li from the College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, China, who conducted the SEM imaging for the biochars used in this study. The authors would also like to thank Tiesheng Wang and Rui Wu from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge for conducting the FT-IR tests. The first author would like to thank the Killam Trusts of Canada for kindly providing the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1674_MOESM1_ESM.docx (183 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 182 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group, Department of EngineeringUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.School of EngineeringUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  4. 4.Institute of Geotechnical Engineering, School of TransportationSoutheast UniversityNanjingChina

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