Lead researcher Marlena Ndoun, a doctoral student in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, samples water in central Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek for emerging contaminants.
IMAGE: PENN STATE
Biochar — a charcoal-like substance made primarily from agricultural waste products — holds promise for removing emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals from treated wastewater.
That’s the conclusion of a team of researchers that conducted a novel study that evaluated and compared the ability of biochar derived from two common leftover agricultural materials — cotton gin waste and guayule bagasse — to adsorb three common pharmaceutical compounds from an aqueous solution. In adsorption, one material, like a pharmaceutical compound, sticks to the surface of another, like the solid biochar particle. Conversely, in absorption, one material is taken internally into another; for example, a sponge absorbs water.
Guayule, a shrub that grows in the arid Southwest, provided the waste for one of the biochars tested in the research. More properly called Parthenium argentatum, it has been cultivated as a source of rubber and latex. The plant is chopped to the ground and its branches mashed up to extract the latex. The dry, pulpy, fibrous residue that remains after stalks are crushed to extract the latex is called bagasse.
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