Biochar and GAC intensify anaerobic phenol degradation via distinctive adsorption and conductive properties

Qian Li, Xin Gao, Yaqian Liu, Gaojun Wang, Yu You Li, Daisuke Sano, Xiaochang Wang, Rong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


The roles of biochar and granular activated carbon (GAC) in the enhancement of anaerobic phenol degradation were characterized through batch tests conducted at different phenol concentrations, coupled with adsorption kinetics, microbial community, and in-situ electrochemical analysis. Both biochar and GAC (15 g/L) led to markedly shorter lag times (t0) by adsorbing dissolved phenol, and faster maximum CH4 production rate (Rmax) by triggering direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) during a two-stage (adsorption then degradation) anaerobic phenol degradation. The high adsorption capacity of GAC helped achieve a shorter t0, but less affected Rmax of subsequent phenol degradation. Compared with GAC, which showed higher conductivity but no redox activity, biochar exhibited higher electron exchange capacity (6.57 μmol e/g). This higher electron exchange capacity stemmed from the diverse redox-active moieties, which resulted in a more efficient DIET. Meanwhile, the formation of wire-like appendages which linked the enriched DIET partners (such as Syntrophorhabdus and Methanosaeta) on biochar probably futher enhanced the electron transfer. However, hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis was still the main pathway for syntrophic phenol degradation in the suspended sludge. The in-situ analysis also confirmed that biochar and GAC acted as geobatteries and geoconductors, respectively, and that the stimulation of DIET was persistent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124183
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 5


  • Biochar
  • Direct interspecies electron transfer
  • GAC
  • Methanogenesis
  • Phenol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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