The use of biochar and pyrolysed materials to improve water quality through microcystin sorption separation

Vladimír Frišták*, H. Dail Laughinghouse, Stephen M. Bell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Harmful algal blooms have increased globally with warming of aquatic environments and increased eutrophication. Proliferation of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and the subsequent flux of toxic extracellular microcystins present threats to public and ecosystem health and challenges for remediation and management. Although methods exist, there is currently a need for more environmentally friendly and economically and technologically feasible sorbents. Biochar has been proposed in this regard because of its high porosity, chemical stability, and notable sorption efficiency for removing of cyanotoxins. In light of worsening cyanobacterial blooms and recent research advances, this review provides a timely assessment of microcystin removal strategies focusing on the most pertinent chemical and physical sorbent properties responsible for effective removal of various pollutants from wastewater, liquid wastes, and aqueous solutions. The pyrolysis process is then evaluated for the first time as a method for sorbent production for microcystin removal, considering the suitability and sorption efficiencies of pyrolysed materials and biochar. Inefficiencies and high costs of conventional methods can be avoided through the use of pyrolysis. The significant potential of biochar for microcystin removal is determined by feedstock type, pyrolysis conditions, and the physiochemical properties produced. This review informs future research and development of pyrolysed materials for the treatment of microcystin contaminated aquatic environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2871
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalWater (Switzerland)
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


    • Algal bloom
    • Biochar
    • Cyanobacteria
    • Microcystin
    • Separation
    • Water quality


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