Biochar technology in wastewater treatment: A critical review

Wei Xiang, Xueyang Zhang, Jianjun Chen, Weixin Zou, Feng He, Xin Hu, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Yong Sik Ok, Bin Gao

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

505 Citations (Scopus)


Biochar is a promising agent for wastewater treatment, soil remediation, and gas storage and separation. This review summarizes recent research development on biochar production and applications with a focus on the application of biochar technology in wastewater treatment. Different technologies for biochar production, with an emphasis on pre-treatment of feedstock and post treatment, are succinctly summarized. Biochar has been extensively used as an adsorbent to remove toxic metals, organic pollutants, and nutrients from wastewater. Compared to pristine biochar, engineered/designer biochar generally has larger surface area, stronger adsorption capacity, or more abundant surface functional groups (SFG), which represents a new type of carbon material with great application prospects in various wastewater treatments. As the first of its kind, this critical review emphasizes the promising prospects of biochar technology in the treatment of various wastewater including industrial wastewater (dye, battery manufacture, and dairy wastewater), municipal wastewater, agricultural wastewater, and stormwater. Future research on engineered/designer biochar production and its field-scale application is discussed. Based on the review, it can be concluded that biochar technology represents a new, cost effective, and environmentally-friendly solution for the treatment of wastewater.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126539
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Carbonaceous adsorbents
  • Engineered biochar
  • Modification methods
  • Production technologies
  • Wastewater treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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