This study compares the physico-chemical characteristics of three different types of biochar produced from biomass residues in Vietnam as a basis for optimising their application in water purification and soil fertilisation. Wood biochar (WBC), rice husk biochar (RBC), and bamboo biochar (BBC) were produced under limited oxygen conditions using equipment available locally in Vietnam, known as a Top-Lid Updraft Drum (TLUD). The resulting biochars were characterised using a suite of state-of-the-art methods to understand their morphology, surface chemistry and cation exchange capacity. Surface areas (measured by BET) for WBC and BBC were 479.34 m2/g and 434.53 m2/g, respectively, significantly higher than that of RBC which was only 3.29 m2/g. The morphology as shown in SEM images corresponds with the BET surface area, showing a smooth surface for RBC, a hollow surface for BBC, and a rough surface for WBC. All three biochars produced alkaline, with pH values around 10, and all have high carbon contents (47.95 - 82.1 %). Cation exchange capacity (CEC) was significantly different (p<0.05) among the biochars, being 26.70 cmol/kg for RBC, 20.7 cmol/kg for BBC, and 13.53 cmol/kg for WBC, which relates to the cations (Ca, Mg, K) and functional groups with negative charge (carboxyl, hydroxyl) present on the biochar surfaces. The highest contents of Ca, Mg and K in rice husk BC may explain its highest CEC values. Thus, although the biochars were produced by the same method, the various feedstocks lead to quite different physico-chemical properties. Ongoing work is linking these physico-chemical properties to the biochar efficiencies in terms of nitrate and ammonia capture capacities for use as fertilisers, and for adsorption of heavy metals (Zn, Cu) or water filtration, in order to design optimal biochar properties for specific applications.