The relationship between physicochemical properties of biochar-based activated carbons and its adsorption was investigated using an aromatic model compound, phenanthrene. Solid-state C-13 NMR analysis indicated more condensed aromatic structures when pyrolysis temperature increased or after activation process induced. The increasing aromaticity and non-protonated carbon fraction of the activated biochar treated at 300 degrees C amounted to 14.7% and 24.0%, respectively, compared to 7.4% and 4.4% for biochar treated at 700 degrees C. The surface area and pore volume were reduced with the increase in pyrolysis temperature, but increased after activation. Surface characteristics correlated with the initial sorption rate and equilibrium concentration of phenanthrene, but not with the aromaticity. Solid-state H-2 NMR for phenanthrened(10) saturated activated biochars, however, showed substantial difference in molecular mobility, which might be due to the high aromaticity of the activated biochars. Overall, these results provide an opportunity to manipulate the characteristics of biomass-based adsorbents based on the application needs. 0 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.