Pyrolysis of contaminated energy crops and the characterisation of the gained biochar

  • Zsuzsa Mayer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The simultaneous use of willow as a vegetation filter and an energy crop can respond both to the increasing energy demand and to the problem of the soil and water contamination. Its characteristics guarantee that the resources are used economically. As a vegetation filter, willow uptakes organic and inorganic contaminants. As a fast growing energy crop it meets the
requirements of rural areas without the exploitation of existing forestry.
The aim of the research was to gather knowledge on the thermal behaviour of willow, uptaking contaminants and then used as an energy crop. For this reason pyrolysis experiments were performed in two different scales. In analytical scale metal-contaminated wood was
investigated and bench scale pyrolysis experiments were performed with nitrogen-enriched
willow, originated from a wastewater treatment plant.
Results of the pyrolysis showed that 51-81 % of the wastewater derived nitrogen of willow was captured in the char product. Char had 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) while the bioavailability of char nutrients was low. Links were also established between the
pyrolysis temperature and the product properties for maximising the biochar provided benefits for
soil applications. Results also showed that the metal binding capacity of wood varied from one metal ion to another, char yield increased and levoglucosan yield decreased in their presence. While char yield was mainly affected by the concentration of the metal ions, levoglucosan yield was more
dependent on the type of the ionic species. Combustion experiments were also carried out with metal-enriched char. The burnout
temperatures, estimated ignition indices and the conversion indicate that the metal ions type and
not the amount were the determining factors during the combustion. Results presented in the Thesis provide better understanding on the thermal behaviour of nitrogen-enriched and metal contaminated biomass which is crucial to design effective pyrolysis units and combustors. These findings are relevant for pyrolysis experiments, where the goal is to yield char for energetic or soil applications.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndreas Hornung (Supervisor)


  • contaminated biomass
  • char combustion
  • metals in wood
  • nitrogen cycle
  • wastewater treatment

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