Intro to biochar

We are pleased that you, just like us, want to learn more about biochar. Using carbonized biomass to for example improve soil properties, filter water and treat stomach disease is an ancient method that has been a part of cultures worldwide. After far too long in hibernation the use, production and research on biochar is finally increasing. Thus there are always new things to learn. Below we give you our introduction to biochar.

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What is biochar?

Biochar is carbonized biomass with the purpose of being used in such a way that it is intact under a long period of time. Carbonization means heated in an environment restricted from oxygen and biomass can be translated with plant material. Often the question if charcoal is the same thing as biochar? The question is no if the charcoal is being burnt and yes if it is used in a way so that it is intact under a long time. 

Use

Biochar has foremost been used as soilimprovement. The biochar is full of pores that both absorb and adsorb water and nutrients and keep them in the soil. The plants fine roots grow into the pores to access the water and nutrients. Studies also show that the biochar can have a considerable effect on the level of soil organic matter, microbial life and the increasing issue with compaction of the soil. Apart from improving soil biochar can, thanks to its characteristics, also be used as filter material, building material in concrete and asphalt and as feed additive in animal feed.

Carbon sink

The structure of the biochar is stable, which means that it takes a long time for microorganisms to break down. Depending on the way the biochar was produced and the conditions in the soil, the biochar can remain in the soil for 100s to 1000s of years. During this time the biochar creates a carbon sink that locks the carbon atoms in the ground. If not, this carbon would have been oxidized to carbon dioxide and thus contributed to the ongoing climate change.

Production

The process of making biochar is called carbonization. In the process approx. 50 % of the carbon available in the biomass ends up in the biochar and the remaining 50 % in the synthesis gas. Depending on the construction of the biochar machine the synthesis gas is usually used to produce heat, electricity or bio-oil. Carbonization sets relatively low demands on the biomass, which makes it possible to use biomass that has few other uses. Examples of suitable biomasses are park waste, grain husks and nut shells. Today the market offers a range of different biochar machines for industrial production but biochar can easily be made in small scale at home, for example in a Kon-tiki or a metall cookie jar.

System thinking

As we see it, the genious of biochar is that it suits so well in a system. For example, you use a biomass with few other uses to produce biochar and heat/electirity. The biochar can, thanks to its stable structure, be used in a number of applications and lastly create a carbon sink to counteract climate change. 

This was a very short introduction to biochar, and we hope that you want to know more. What ideas and thoughts came to your mind?

Best wishes,

Lotta & Mattias