New insights into the activity of a biochar supported nanoscale zerovalent iron composite and nanoscale zero valent iron under anaerobic or aerobic conditions†
In this work, to gain insight into the mechanism of p-nitrophenol (PNP) removal using the reactivity of a biochar supported nanoscale zerovalent iron composite (nZVI/biochar) and nanoscale zero valent iron (nZVI) under anaerobic or aerobic conditions, batch experiments and models were conducted. The PNP removal rate in the more acidic solutions was higher, while it was significantly suppressed at higher pH, especially at pH 9.0. The peak value of the apparent rate constants suggests that the reactivity of nZVI/biochar could be much stronger than that of nZVI under the same aeration conditions. The modified Langmuir–Hinshelwood kinetic model could successfully describe the PNP removal process using nZVI/biochar or nZVI. The reaction constants obtained through a Langmuir–Hinshelwood mechanism under different aeration conditions followed the trend nZVI/biochar (N2) > nZVI/biochar (air) > nZVI (N2) > nZVI (air), indicating that nZVI/biochar under anaerobic conditions exhibits enhanced activity for the degradation of PNP. The nZVI/biochar under anaerobic conditions has the lowest Arrhenius activation energy of PNP degradation–adsorption, suggesting that the surface interaction of eliminating PNP has a low energy barrier. In addition, TOC removal under anaerobic conditions was negligible compared with that under the aerobic system and the total number of iron ions leaching at solution pH 3.0 in the nZVI/biochar or nZVI system under air aeration conditions was much higher than that under nitrogen aeration conditions. The profiles of the intermediates formed during the PNP degradation indicated that in the anaerobic environment, reduction was the predominant step in the removal process, while the degradation of PNP could be regarded as a combination of oxidation and reduction in an aerobic environment.