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New directions and challenges in engineering biologically-enhanced biochar for biological water treatment.


Anjali Jayakumar

Christian Wurzer

Sylvia Soldatou



Cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable water treatment solutions utilising existing materials and technology will make it easier for low and middle-income countries to adopt them, improving public health. The ability of biochar to mediate and support microbial degradation of contaminants, combined with its carbon-sequestration potential, has attracted attention in recent years. Biochar is a possible candidate for use in cost-effective and sustainable biological water treatment, especially in agrarian economies with easy access to abundant biomass in the form of crop residues and organic wastes. This review evaluates the scope, potential benefits (economic and environmental) and challenges of sustainable biological water treatment using 'Biologically-Enhanced Biochar' or BEB. We discuss the various processes occurring in BEB systems and demonstrate the urgent need to investigate microbial degradation mechanisms. We highlight the need to correlate biochar properties to biofilm development, which can eventually determine process efficiency. We also demonstrate the various opportunities in adopting BEB as a cheaper and more viable alternative in Low and Middle Income Countries and compare it to the current benchmark, 'Biological Activated Carbon'. We focus on the recent advances in the areas of data science, mathematical modelling and molecular biology to systematically and sustainably design BEB filters, unlike the largely empirical design approaches seen in water treatment. 'Sequential biochar systems' are introduced as specially designed end-of-life techniques to lower the environmental impact of BEB filters and examples of their integration into biological water treatment that can fulfil zero waste criteria for BEBs are given.


JAYAKUMAR, A., WURZER, C., SOLDATOU, S., EDWARDS, C., LAWTON, L.A. and MAŠEK, O. 2021. New directions and challenges in engineering biologically-enhanced biochar for biological water treatment. Science of the total environment [online], 796, article number 148977. Available from:

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jul 7, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 12, 2021
Publication Date Nov 20, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2022
Journal Science of the total environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Electronic ISSN 1879-1026
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 796
Article Number 148977
Keywords Biologically-enhanced biochar; Biological water treatment; Biochar-microbial interactions; Sequential biochar systems
Public URL
Additional Information This article has been published with separate supporting information that details how papers were selected for the review. This supporting information has been incorporated into a single file on this repository and can be found at the end of the document.


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