Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Director

Sandeep Kumar

Committee Member

Mujde Erten-Unal

Committee Member

James W. Lee


The presence of heavy metals in drinking water is a significant concern due to the harmful impacts it can have on human health. Biochar has emerged as a low-cost alternative to activated carbon for lead (Pb) adsorption due to its porous structure and high surface-to-volume ratio. The last 10 years of studies have been reviewed to investigate the biochar production, activation methods, kinetic, adsorption isotherms, mechanism, regeneration, and adsorption capacities to guide future researchers and practitioners in using biochar to remove Pb from water. However, several challenges hinder the actual application of biochar as an adsorbent. These challenges include variability in adsorption capacity, potential desorption or leaching of Pb from the biochar back into the solution, and lack of studies on scalability issues for its application as an adsorbent

To address the lack of column studies in the field of heavy metal removal using biochar as an adsorbent, a fixed-bed adsorption study was conducted to remove Pb(II) from water. The study evaluated the impact of initial Pb(II) concentration, mass of adsorbent, and flow rate on the adsorption potential. The Adams-Bohart model, Thomas model, and Yoon-Nelson model were used to analyze the adsorption data. The breakthrough data obtained from this study can be applied in the design of a point-of-use filter that can effectively remove Pb(II) from drinking water.

The use of biochar as an adsorbent for metals like chromium in combination with microalgae cultivation for treating tannery wastewater was also investigated. The study tested two types of biochar - pinewood biochar (PB) and a commercial biochar (CB)- as a pretreatment step before cultivating microalgae. Results showed that the application of both types of biochar led to a significant increase in growth rates (61% and 126% for PB and CB, respectively) compared to cultivation in raw wastewaters. The study also found that the biochar production process and its physiochemical characteristics strongly influenced Cr(III) adsorption performances.

This research aims to provide a comprehensive resource on the opportunities and engineering challenges associated with using biochar for heavy metal removal from water.


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