Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 1687–1704 | Cite as

Date palm waste-derived biochar composites with silica and zeolite: synthesis, characterization and implication for carbon stability and recalcitrant potential

  • Munir Ahmad
  • Mahtab Ahmad
  • Adel R. A. Usman
  • Abdullah S. Al-Faraj
  • Adel Abduljabbar
  • Yong Sik Ok
  • Mohammad I. Al-WabelEmail author
Original Paper


Engineered organo-mineral composites were synthesized from date palm waste biochar and silica or zeolite via mechanochemical treatments. Date palm tree rachis (leaves) waste biomass was pre-treated with silica or zeolite minerals via ball milling and sonication prior to pyrolysis at 600 °C. The resultant organo-mineral composites and pristine materials were characterized using X-ray diffraction, thermogravimetric–differential thermal (TG–DTA), Fourier transform infrared, scanning electron microscope analyses and surface area and porosity analyzer to investigate the variations in physiochemical and structural characteristics. Compared to the resultant composites derived from non-milled date palm biomass, ball milling increased surface area, while decreased crystallinity index and effective particle size of the biochar composites. Silica composited biochars were located near origin in the van Krevelen diagram indicating lowest H/C and O/C molar ratios, thus suggesting higher aromaticity and lower polarity compared to other biochars. TGA thermograms indicated highest thermal stability of silica composited biochars. Ash and moisture corrected TGA thermograms were used to calculate recalcitrance index (R50) of the materials, which speculated high degradability of biomass (R50 < 0.4), minimal degradability of biochars and zeolite composited biochars (0.5 < R50 < 0.7) and high recalcitrant nature of silica composited biochars (R50 > 0.7). Silica composited biochars exhibited highest carbon sequestration potential (64.17–95.59%) compared to other biochars. Highest recalcitrance and carbon sequestration potential of silica composited biochars may be attributed to changes in structural arrangements in the silica–biochar complex. Encapsulations of biochar particles with amorphous silica via Si–C bonding may have prevented thermal degradation, subsequently increasing recalcitrance potential of silica composited biochars.


Carbon sequestration Engineered biochar Organo-mineral Recalcitrance index Encapsulation 



The authors extend their appreciation to the Deanship of Scientific Research, King Saud University, for funding this work through the international research group project IRG-14-14.

Supplementary material

10653_2017_9947_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 51 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Munir Ahmad
    • 1
  • Mahtab Ahmad
    • 1
    • 2
  • Adel R. A. Usman
    • 1
    • 3
  • Abdullah S. Al-Faraj
    • 1
  • Adel Abduljabbar
    • 4
  • Yong Sik Ok
    • 5
  • Mohammad I. Al-Wabel
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Soil Sciences Department, College of Food and Agricultural SciencesKing Saud UniversityRiyadhKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Biological SciencesQuaid-I-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  3. 3.Department of Soils and Water, Faculty of AgricultureAssiut UniversityAssiutEgypt
  4. 4.Industrial Psychology, College of EducationKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  5. 5.Korea Biochar Research Center and Department of Biological EnvironmentKangwon National UniversityChuncheonRepublic of Korea

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