Although the suitability of some biochars for contaminants' sorption separation has been established, not all potential feedstocks have been explored and characterized. Here, we physicochemically characterized cherry pit biochar (CPB) pyrolyzed from cherry pit biomass (CP) at 500 °C, and we assessed their As and Hg sorption efficiencies in aqueous solutions in comparison to activated carbon (AC). The basic physicochemical and material characterization of the studied adsorbents was carried out using pH, electrical conductivity (EC), cation exchange capacity (CEC), concentration of surface functional groups (Boehm titration), and surface area (SA) analysis; elemental C, H, N analysis; and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX). AsO43- anions and Hg2+ cations were selected as model contaminants used to test the sorption properties of the sorption materials. Characterization analyses confirmed a ninefold increase in SA in the case of CPB. The total C concentration increased by 26%, while decreases in the total H and N concentrations were observed. The values of carbonate and ash contents decreased by about half due to pyrolysis processes. The concentrations of surface functional groups of the analyzed biochar obtained by Boehm titration confirmed a decrease in carboxyl and lactone groups, while an increase in phenolic functional groups was observed. Changes in the morphology and surface functionality of the pyrolyzed material were confirmed by SEM-EDX and FTIR analyses. In sorption experiments, we found that the CPB showed better results in the sorption separation of Hg2+ than in the sorption separation of AsO43-. The sorption efficiency for the model cation increased in the order CP < CPB < AC and, for the model anion, it increased in the order CPB < CP < AC.
Keywords: As; Hg; biochar; pyrolysis; sorption separation.