While numerous studies have investigated metal uptake from solution by biochar, few of these have developed a mechanistic understanding of the adsorption reactions that occur at the biochar surface. In this study, we explore a combined modeling and spectroscopic approach for the first time to describe the molecular level adsorption of Ni(II) and Zn(II) to five types of biochar. Following thorough characterization, potentiometric titrations were carried out to measure the proton (H+) reactivity of each biochar, and the data was used to develop protonation models. Surface complexation modeling (SCM) supported by synchrotron-based extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) was then used to gain insights into the molecular scale metal-biochar surface reactions. The SCM approach was combined with isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) data to determine the thermodynamic driving forces of metal adsorption. Our results show that the reactivity of biochar toward Ni(II) and Zn(II) directly relates to the site densities of biochar. EXAFS along with FT-IR analyses, suggest that Ni(II) and Zn(II) adsorption occurred primarily through proton-active carboxyl (-COOH) and hydroxyl (-OH) functional groups on the biochar surface. SCM-ITC analyses revealed that the enthalpies of protonation are exothermic and Ni(II) and Zn(II) complexes with biochar surface are slightly exothermic to slightly endothermic. The results obtained from these combined approaches contribute to the better understanding of molecular scale metal adsorption onto the biochar surface, and will facilitate the further development of thermodynamics-based, predictive approaches to biochar removal of metals from contaminated water.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry