Contamination of soil interstitial waters by labile heavy metals such as Cu(II), Cd(II), and Ni(II) is of worldwide concern. Carbonaceous materials such as char and activated carbon have received considerable attention in recent years as soil amendment for both sequestering heavy metal contaminants and releasing essential nutrients like sulfur. Information is currently lacking in how aging impacts the integrity of biochars as soil amendment for both agricultural and environmental remediation purposes. Major contributors to biochar aging in soils are: sorption of environmental constituents, especially natural organic matter (NOM), and oxidation. To investigate the impact of NOM and organic fractions of chars, we employed broiler litter-derived chars and steam-activated carbons that underwent varying degrees of carbonization, in the presence and absence of NOM having known carboxyl contents. For aging by oxidation, we employed phosphoric acid activated carbons that underwent varying degrees of oxidation during activation. The results suggest that the organic fractions of biochars, and NOM having high carboxyl contents can mobilize Cu(II) retained by alkaline soil. Base treatment of broiler litter-derived char formed at low pyrolysis temperature (350 °C) improved the immobilization of all heavy metals investigated, and the extent of immobilization was similar to, or slightly greater than pecan shell-derived phosphoric acid activated carbons. Portions of total sulfur were released in soluble form in soil amended with broiler litter-derived carbons, but not pecan shell-derived phosphoric acid activated carbons. © 2010.
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