In recent years, a large volume of literature has been published regarding the removal of phosphorus (P) from wastewater. Various sorbing materials, such as metal oxides and hydroxides, carbonates and hydroxides of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg), hydrotalcite, activated carbon, anion exchange resins, industrial solid wastes and organic solid wastes, have been suggested for P removal. Many of these sorbents are expensive and/or may cause some environmental problems. In contrast, biochar, as an economical and environmentally friendly sorbing material, has received much attention in recent years and has been used as a novel sorbent for the removal of different organic and inorganic pollutants. Biochar is a type of sustainable carbonaceous material that is produced from the thermal treatment of agricultural organic residues and other organic waste streams under oxygen free conditions. This paper reviews the potential use of biochar and the key controlling factors affecting P removal from wastewater. The ability of biochar to remove P from wastewater depends on its physical and chemical properties. Some of the most important physicochemical properties of biochar (structural characteristics, electrical conductivity (EC), mineral composition, pH, zeta potential, cation exchange capacity (CEC) and anion exchange capacity (AEC)) are affected by the feedstock type as well as temperature of pyrolysis and the P sorption capacity is highly dependent on these properties. The P removal is also affected by the water matrix chemistry, such as the presence of competing ions and bulk pH conditions. Finally, several recommendations for future research have been proposed to facilitate and enhance the environmental efficiency of biochar application.
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