Low-Cost Biochar Adsorbents for Water Purification Including Microplastics Removal

Virpi Siipola, Stephan Pflugmacher, Henrik Romar, Laura Wendling, Pertti Koukkari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


The applicability of steam activated pine and spruce bark biochar for storm water and wastewater purification has been investigated. Biochar samples produced from the bark of scots pine (Pinus sylvestrus) and spruce (Picea spp.) by conventional slow pyrolysis at 475 °C were steam activated at 800 °C. Steam activation was selected as a relatively inexpensive method for creating porous biochar adsorbents from the bark-containing sidestreams of the wood refining industry. A suite of standard analytical procedures were carried out to quantify the performance of the activated biochar in removing both cations and residual organics from aqueous media. Phenol and microplastics retention and cation exchange capacity were employed as key test parameters. Despite relatively low surface areas (200–600 m2/g), the steam-activated biochars were highly suitable adsorbents for the chemical species tested as well as for microplastics removal. The results indicate that ultra-high porosities are not necessary for satisfactory water purification, supporting the economic feasibility of bio-based adsorbent production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number788
Pages (from-to)788
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biochar
  • activated carbon
  • steam activation
  • phenol adsorption
  • microplastics
  • bark


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