Biochar-mediated abiotic and biotic degradation of halogenated organic contaminants – A review

Mariah Dorner, Srinidhi Lokesh, Yu Yang, Sebastian Behrens

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Prevailing global increases in population, urbanization, and agricultural production are causing increased pressures on water resources, especially as the use of chemicals in agriculture, industry, and medicine provide new challenges for water treatment and reuse. Organohalogen compounds are persistent contaminants that often evade current wastewater treatment technologies, resulting in their accumulation in the environment and posing a serious threat to ecosystem health. Recent advances in understanding pyrogenic carbons as electron shuttling and storing materials have exposed their potential for enhancing the dehalogenation and overall degradation of organohalide contaminants in soil, sediment, surface water, and wastewater systems. Biochar is a porous carbonaceous material produced during the thermochemical decomposition of biomass feedstock in the presence of little or no oxygen (pyrolysis). Interest in biochar for application towards environmental remediation is largely based on its three distinct benefits: I) carbon sequestration to offset greenhouse gas emissions, II) adsorption of (in-) organic contaminants and nutrients, and III) a strong electron exchange capacity. Due to the innate complexity of biochar materials, several electron transfer mechanisms exist by which biochar may mediate contaminant degradation. These electron transfer pathways include electron-accepting and donating cycles through redox-active functional groups and direct electron transfer via conductive carbon matrices. These mechanisms are responsible for biochar's participation in multiple redox-driven biogeochemical transformations with proven consequences for effective organohalogen remediation. This literature review summarizes the current knowledge on the mechanisms and processes through which biochar can directly or indirectly mediate the transformation of organohalogen compounds under various environmental conditions. Perspectives and research directions for future application of biochars for targeted remediation strategies are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158381
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022

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  • Biochar
  • Dehalogenation
  • Electron exchange capacity
  • Electron shuttle
  • Halogenated organic contaminants
  • Remediation


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