New trends in biochar pyrolysis and modification strategies: feedstock, pyrolysis conditions, sustainability concerns and implications for soil amendment

Liuwei Wang, Yong Sik Ok, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Daniel S. Alessi, Jörg Rinklebe, Hailong Wang, Ondřej Mašek, Renjie Hou, David O'Connor, Deyi Hou

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


As a waste-derived soil amendment with a long history, biochar has received extensive attention for its capability to improve soil fertility/health; remove or immobilize contaminants in soil, water and air; and mitigate climate change. With the aim of producing engineered biochars with excellent performances, new trends in biochar pyrolytic production and modification strategies have emerged. This review critically summarizes novel pyrolysis methods (e.g., microwave-assisted pyrolysis, co-pyrolysis and wet pyrolysis) and modification approaches (e.g., mineral modification, photocatalytic modification, electrochemical modification) with a focus on (a) the mechanisms involved in environmental remediation processes including soil immobilization, contaminant adsorption and catalytic oxidation; (b) effects of feedstock and pyrolysis conditions on physicochemical properties; (c) sustainability considerations in novel modification and pyrolysis strategies; and (d) the feasibility of extrapolating the results from wastewater treatment to soil remediation. It is argued that in order to achieve the maximum net environmental benefits, ‘greener’ modification methods are warranted, and the risks associated with pyrolysis of contaminated feedstock in soil amendment and contaminant sorption can be minimized through various novel approaches (e.g., co-pyrolysis). Furthermore, novel pyrolysis methods can be combined with emerging modification strategies to synthesize more ‘effective’ biochars. Considering the similar aims of modification (e.g., increase surface area, introduce oxygen-containing functional groups, increase aromaticity), the applicability of several novel approaches could in future can be expanded from contaminant adsorption/degradation in aqueous media to soil remediation/fertility improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-386
Number of pages29
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • clean water
  • engineered biochar
  • food security
  • green and sustainable remediation
  • soil pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Pollution

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