Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is a facile, low-cost and eco-friendly thermal conversion process that has recently gained attention with a growing number of publications (lower 50 in 2000 to over 1500 in 2020). Despite being a promising technology, problems such as operational barriers, complex reaction mechanisms and scaling have to be solved to make it a commercial technology. To bridge this current gap, this review elaborates on the chemistry of the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass. Besides, a comprehensive overview of the influence of the HTC operational conditions (pH, temperature, water:biomass ratio, residence time and water recirculation) are discussed to better understand how hydrochar with desired properties can be efficiently produced. Large-scale examples of the application of HTC are also presented. Current applications of hydrochar in the fields of energy, biocatalysis and environment are reviewed. Finally, economic cost and future prospects are analyzed.
Keywords: Adsorption; Biomass feedstock; Biomaterials; Energy recovery; Hydrothermal carbonization.
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