Enhanced cadmium removal by biochar and iron oxides composite : Material interactions and pore structure

Liu, Yong; Wang, Long; Liu, Chang; Ma, Jie; Ouyang, Xiaoxue; Weng, Liping; Chen, Yali; Li, Yongtao


The combination of biochar (BC) and iron minerals improves their pollutant adsorption capacity. However, little is known about the reactivity of BC-iron mineral composites regarding their interaction and change in the pore structure. In this study, the mechanism of cadmium (Cd) adsorption by BC-iron oxide composites, such as BC combined with ferrihydrite (FH) or goethite (GT), was explored. The synergistic effect of the BC-FH composite significantly improved its Cd adsorption capacity. The adsorption efficiencies of BC-FH and BC-GT increased by 15.0% and 10.8%, respectively, compared with that of uncombined BC, FH, and GT. The strong Cd adsorption by BC-FH was attributed to stable interactions and stereoscopic pore filling between BC and FH. The scanning electron microscopy results showed that FH particles entered the BC pores, whereas GT particles were loaded onto the BC surface. FTIR spectroscopy showed that GT covered a larger area of the BC surface than FH. After loading FH and GT, BC porosities decreased by 9.3% and 4.1%, respectively. Quantum chemical calculations and independent gradient mode analysis showed that van der Waals interactions, H-bonds, and covalent-like interactions maintained stability between iron minerals and BC. Additionally, humic acid increased the agglomeration of iron oxides and formed larger particles, causing additional aggregates to load onto the BC surface instead of entering the BC pores. Our results provide theoretical support to reveal the interfacial behavior of BC-iron mineral composites in soil and provide a reference for field applications of these materials for pollution control and environmental remediation.