Ammonia is a major fugitive gas emitted from livestock operations and fertilization production. This study tested the potential of various biochars in removing gaseous ammonia via adsorption processes. Gaseous ammonia adsorption capacities of various biochars made from wood shaving and chicken litter with different thermal conditions and activation techniques were determined using laboratory adsorption column tests. Ammonia adsorption capacities of non-activated biochars ranged from 0.15 to 5.09 mg·N/g, which were comparable to that of other commercial activated carbon and natural zeolite. There were no significant differences in ammonia adsorption capacities of steam activated and non-activated biochars even if the surface areas of the steam activated biochars were about two orders of magnitude greater than that of non-activated biochars. In contrast, phosphoric acid activation greatly increased the biochar ammonia adsorption capacity. This suggests that the surface area of biochar did not readily control gaseous NH3
adsorption. Ammonia adsorption capacities were more or less linearly increased with acidic oxygen surface groups of non-activated and steam-activated biochars. Phosphoric acid bound to the acid activated biochars is suspected to contribute to the exceptionally high ammonia adsorption capacity. The sorption capacities of virgin and water-washed biochar samples were not different, suggesting the potential to regenerate spent biochar simply with water instead of energy- and capital-intensive steam. The results of this study suggest that non-activated biochars can successfully replace commercial activated carbon in removing gaseous ammonia and the removal efficiency will greatly increase if the biochars are activated with phosphoric acid.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited