Mineral-Enhanced Biochars for Removal of Sulfate and Metals from Mine Water

Biochar is a recalcitrant, aromatic carbon material, generated by heating biomass to temperatures between 300-1000°C under low oxygen supply. It can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural residues, wood chips, or manure. Recently, biochars have found application as low cost sorbent material in environmental remediation. In this project we evaluate the effect of different mineral-enhanced biochars on microbial sulfate reduction and compare the sorptive properties of biochars for heavy metals associated with copper/nickel sulfide mining activities in NE Minnesota. Ongoing research is also investigating the electron shuttling capabilities of mineral enhanced biochars in microbial bioelectrical systems for mine water treatment. The aim is to develop a biochar-mineral composite material that promotes microbial electron shuttling and growth but also served as effective sorbent for heavy metals and metal sulfides in order to improve current biotechnologies for the efficient, low-cost, environmentally-friendly treatment of mine drainage in biofilters, bioreactors and permeable reactive barriers.

Project Staff: 

Dr. Sebastian Behrens, Dr. Jovan Popovic, Dr. Zhe Du, and Dr. Kurt Spokas