UK Biochar Research Centre

What is Biochar?

Copied from the Reseach Centre’s website:

Heating biomass in a zero-oxygen environment to temperatures of 250°C or greater yields energy-rich gases and liquids, and a solid charcoal, or char.

When this char has been produced specifically to have beneficial effects – for example as a soil improver or to store carbon – we call this material biochar.

The thermal process used to produce biochar is known as pyrolysis, and by altering the pyrolysis conditions, it’s possible to change the character of the biochar.  In general higher pyrolysis temperatures mean a smaller amount of char, but containing a greater proportion of highly stable carbon.

This carbon seems to remain sequestered in biochar for centuries, and so sustainable biochar production could be a powerful tool in the fight against anthropogenic climate change.

There is strong evidence that biochar can also have some beneficial effects when added to soils.  Its highly porous structure can act like a slow-release ‘sponge’ for water and useful soil nutrients. 

Biochar can be made from almost any type of dry biomass – including waste materials.  Therefore, biochar production could be an enormous opportunity for ‘closed-loop’ type resource management, with numerous valuable benefits.

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