Characterization of engineered biochar for soil management

Zsuzsa A. Mayer*, Yousif Eltom, Dwayne Stennett, Elisabeth Schröder, Andreas Apfelbacher, Andreas Hornung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Pyrolysis is an energy conversion technology which by heating organic materials in the absence of oxygen, produces liquid, gaseous, and solid fuel products. Biochar, the solid product, can also be used as a soil amendment and, simultaneously, enables us to sequester carbon in the soil. By controlling the pyrolysis process, it is possible to engineer biochar suitable for the remediation of specific soil management problems. This research uses a characterization method more suited to producing biochar for soil amendment purposes than the existing biochar fuel characterization standards. This is the first research to use wastewater irrigated willow as a pyrolysis feedstock. The extensive characterization of biochar produced over a range of temperatures (410-810°C) yielded data on key properties relevant to soil under management: low surface area (1.4 to 5.4 m2/g), low bulk density (0.15-0.18 g/cm3), high pH values (7.8-9.4) and high water-holding capacity (1.8 to 4.3 cm3/g). Extraction experiments demonstrated low bioavailability of char nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, and Mg). This research also studied this artificial nitrogen cycle of pyrolysis: nitrogen accumulated in the wood from the wastewater and high levels of nitrogen remained in the biochar in a stable form not directly available to plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-496
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Progress and Sustainable Energy
Volume33
Issue number2
Early online date28 May 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding: Science Bridge project [EP/G039992/1]; initiative of the Research Councils (RCUK); and Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Keywords

  • biochar characterization
  • nutrient recovery
  • pyrolysis
  • soil amendment
  • willow

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