Refining of hydrochars/ hydrothermally carbonized biomass into activated carbons and their applications

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry (MMK), Stockholm University

Abstract: Hydrothermally treated biomass could not only be used as a fuel or a fertilizer but it can also be refined into high-value products. Activated carbons are one of those. In the studies of this thesis, four different hydrothermally carbonized (HTC) biomasses, including horse manure, grass cuttings, beer waste and biosludge, have been successfully made into activated carbons. The activated carbon materials were in the forms of powdered activated carbons, powdered composites of activated carbon and iron oxide nano-crystals, and activated carbon discs.The HTC biomasses and the activated carbons were characterized and analyzed using several methods. The biomasses were carbonized to different extent during the hydrothermal treatment, which depended on the different natures of the biomasses. The HTC biomasses were activated into powdered activated carbons by both physical activation, using CO2, and by chemical activation, using H3PO4. Full factorial design matrices were applied to design experiments and study the influence of different parameters used during both physical and chemical activation. Activated carbons with embedded iron oxide nanoparticles were synthesized through hydrothermal carbonization followed by CO2 activation. These composites had high surface areas and showed a strong magnetism, and the powders could be separated from liquid phase by applying a magnetic field. Strong and dense activated carbon discs were also prepared from powdered HTC beer waste by pulsed current processing (PCP) and a subsequent CO2 activation procedure. The potential for carbon dioxide separation from nitrogen, and methylene blue adsorption in aqueous solution, were assessed for the powdered activated carbons produced from HTC biomasses. They showed good performance in both applications. 

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