Tailored design of food waste hydrochar for efficient adsorption and catalytic degradation of refractory organic contaminant

Yuyan Liu, Yuqing Sun, Zhonghao Wan, Fanqi Jing, Zhixiong Li, Jiawei Chen, Daniel C.W. Tsang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Custom-designed carbonaceous adsorbent/catalyst from ‘green’ sources with desired functionalities under science-informed conditions is indispensable to promote the sustainable industrial wastewater treatment. In this study, we prepared hydrochar by hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) of three types of pre-consumer food waste (i.e., lettuce, taro, and watermelon peel) with different components at various temperatures (i.e., 180–240 °C). The performance of food waste hydrochar was examined through the adsorptive removal and peroxymonosulfate (PMS)-initiated catalytic degradation of a representative, recalcitrant organic contaminant, 2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2,4-D). The LHC180−240 derived from fibre-rich lettuce manifested a substantial 2,4-D adsorption (77.4–88.4 mg g−1) possibly due to intensive partitioning and/or chemisorption, which were dependent on the mesoporous carbon structure with low aromaticity and abundant C–O functional groups. In comparison, HTC of starch-rich taro at a relatively low temperature (200 °C) produced the THC200 that displayed a superior catalytic ability (73.5 mg g−1) probably owing to a highly graphitized C domain with low polarity and enriched ketonic (C[dbnd]O) functionality, which might facilitate radical/non-radical PMS activation. Interestingly, the WHC180−240 produced from watermelon peel with moderate-level carbohydrates and low-fibre content presented an improved structure and functional groups (i.e., C–O and C[dbnd]O), but inhibited the PMS activation for 2,4-D degradation possibly due to interference by its inherent dissolved organic matter (1.13–2.26 wt.%). This study provided insightful guidance for tailoring future design of multifunctional hydrochar adsorbent/catalyst for sustainable remediation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127482
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


  • Catalytic degradation
  • Engineered biochar
  • Hydrothermal carbonization
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
  • Organic adsorption
  • Sustainable food waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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