Physical-chemical interactions between pharmaceuticals and biochar in synthetic and real urine

Avni Solanki, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


This research advances the knowledge of the pharmaceutical removal interactions by biochar in synthetic and real urine through the use of reference adsorbents and adsorbate probes. Earlier work has combined biochar and urine for pharmaceutical removal, however, the interactions that influence adsorption are unknown. In this study, bamboo biochar and softwood biochar were chosen as the representative materials and the model pharmaceuticals were naproxen and paracetamol. To further investigate the physical-chemical interactions, two nonpolar adsorbates, para-xylene and dimethylnaphthalene, were tested. Graphite and anion exchange resin, were used to isolate van der Waals and electrostatic interactions, respectively. Experimental kinetic and equilibrium data were fit to multiple adsorption models where the pseudo-second order and Freundlich exhibited the best fit, respectively. The Freundlich and Langmuir parameters had similar trends showing that softwood had the highest adsorption capacity. The model parameters indicated higher selectivity for nonpolar para-xylene and dimethylnaphthalene by graphite and polar paracetamol and naproxen by softwood biochar. The decreasing trend of importance of key interactions for pharmaceutical sorption to biochar are: van der Waals > hydrogen bonding > electrostatic interactions. No statistically significant difference was found between urine age (fresh vs. hydrolyzed) and pharmaceutical removal; however, the urine matrix (synthetic vs. synthetic with metabolites vs. real urine) did show a statistically significant difference on pharmaceutical removal where synthetic urine had comparatively greater adsorption. As constituents (i.e., metabolites) were added to urine matrices, reduced adsorption of pharmaceuticals was observed, indicating that adsorption processes should be tested in real urine for accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-826
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Biochar
  • Graphite
  • Isotherm
  • Naproxen
  • Paracetamol
  • XPS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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