“Green” nZVI-Biochar as Fenton Catalyst: Perspective of Closing-the-Loop in Wastewater Treatment

Molecules. 2023 Feb 2;28(3):1425. doi: 10.3390/molecules28031425.


In the framework of wastewater treatment plants, sewage sludge can be directed to biochar production, which when coupled with an external iron source has the potential to be used as a carbon-iron composite material for treating various organic pollutants in advanced oxidation processes. In this research, “green” synthesized nano zero-valent iron (nZVI) supported on sewage sludge-based biochar (BC)-nZVI-BC was used in the Fenton process for the degradation of the recalcitrant organic molecule. In this way, the circular economy principles were supported within wastewater treatment with immediate loop closing; unlike previous papers, where only the water treatment was assessed, the authors proposed a new approach to wastewater treatment, combining solutions for both water and sludge. The following phases were implemented: synthesis and characterization of nano zero-valent iron supported on sewage sludge-based biochar (nZVI-BC); optimization of organic pollutant removal (Reactive Blue 4 as the model pollutant) by nZVI-BC in the Fenton process, using a Definitive Screening Design (DSD) model; reuse of the obtained Fenton sludge, as an additional catalytic material, under previously optimized conditions; and assessment of the exhausted Fenton sludge’s ability to be used as a source of nutrients. nZVI-BC was used in the Fenton treatment for the degradation of Reactive Blue 4-a model substance containing a complex and stable anthraquinone structure. The DSD model proposes a high dye-removal efficiency of 95.02% under the following optimal conditions: [RB4] = 50 mg/L, [nZVI] = 200 mg/L, [H2O2] = 10 mM. pH correction was not performed (pH = 3.2). Afterwards, the remaining Fenton sludge, which was thermally treated (named FStreated), was applied as a heterogeneous catalyst under the same optimal conditions with a near-complete organic molecule degradation (99.56% ± 0.15). It could be clearly noticed that the cumulative amount of released nutrients significantly increased with the number of leaching experiments. The highest cumulative amounts of released K, Ca, Mg, Na, and P were therefore observed at the fifth leaching cycle (6.40, 1.66, 1.12, 0.62, 0.48 and 58.2 mg/g, respectively). According to the nutrient release and toxic metal content, FStreated proved to be viable for agricultural applications; these findings illustrated that the “green” synthesis of nZVI-BC not only provides innovative and efficient Fenton catalysts, but also constitutes a novel approach for the utilization of sewage sludge, supporting overall process sustainability.

PMID:36771092 | DOI:10.3390/molecules28031425


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