Formation of nitrogen functionalities in biochar materials and their role in the mitigation of hazardous emerging organic pollutants from wastewater

Emerging organic pollutants (EOPs) are serious environmental concerns known for their prominent adverse and hazardous ecological effects, and persistence in nature. Their detrimental impacts have inspired researchers to develop the strategic tools that reduce and overcome the challenges caused by EOPs' rising concentration. As such, biochar becomes as a promising class of biomass-derived functional materials that can be used as low-cost and environmentally-friendly emerging catalysts to remove EOPs. Herein, in-depth synthetic strategies and formation mechanisms of biochar-based nitrogen functionalities during thermochemical conversion are presented. Most prominently, the factors affecting N-surface functionalities in biochar are discussed, emphasizing the most effective N-doping approach, including intrinsic N-doping from biomass feedstock and extrinsic N-doping from exogenous sources. Moreover, biochar-assisted EOPs removal in line with interactions of nitrogen functionalities and contaminants are discussed. The possible reaction mechanisms, i.e., radical and non-radical degradation, physical adsorption, Lewis acid-base interaction, and chemisorption, driven by N-functionalities, are addressed. The unresolved challenges of the potential applications of biochar-mediated functionalities for EOPs removal are emphasized and the outlooks of future research directions are proposed at the end.