Reasons for Upgrading Biochar
Market Applications for Upgraded Biochar
Physical ActivationThis involves the treatment of biochar with steam or carbon dioxide at high temperatures (800-1000 oC) to increase its surface area and porosity. This method can improve biochar's adsorption capacity and is particularly beneficial for applications in wastewater treatment and gas purification. However, physical activation can be energy-intensive and may lead to carbon loss, reducing the carbon sequestration potential of biochar.
Chemical ActivationThis involves impregnating biochar with chemical agents, such as potassium hydroxide (KOH), sodium hydroxide (NaOH), or phosphoric acid (H3PO4), followed by heat treatment at lower temperatures (400-800oC) compared to physical activation. This process can increase biochar's surface area and porosity, enhancing its performance in adsorption and catalysis applications. The main disadvantage of chemical activation is the use of hazardous chemicals and the need for post-treatment to remove residual activation agents.
Acid/Base WashingHere biochar is treated with acidic or alkaline solutions to modify its surface properties and remove impurities, such as heavy metals or ash. This technique can improve biochar's pH and cation exchange capacity (CEC), making it more suitable for applications in soil amendment and environmental remediation. However, acid/base washing can be resource-intensive, as it requires large volumes of water and produces wastewater that needs to be treated and disposed of properly.
Thermal Post-TreatmentThis involves the further heating of biochar under an inert atmosphere. This process can remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and increase the carbon content of biochar, enhancing its stability and carbon sequestration potential. The main disadvantage of thermal post-treatment is the additional energy consumption, which can increase the overall production costs of biochar. Additionally, over-treatment can lead to a reduction in biochar's surface area and porosity, potentially diminishing its performance in certain applications.
Surface FunctionalisationIn surface functionalization, the surface chemistry of biochar is modified through the attachment of specific functional groups, such as hydroxyl, carboxyl, or amine groups. This can be achieved through chemical or biological methods, such as oxidation, amination, or enzymatic treatment. Surface functionalization can improve biochar's adsorption capacity, selectivity, and reactivity, making it more suitable for applications in environmental remediation, catalysis, and agriculture. However, some surface functionalization techniques can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive, limiting their scalability and commercial viability.
Blending and CompostingHere biochar is mixed with other materials, such as natural or synthetic polymers, minerals, or organic compounds, to create composite materials with enhanced properties. This approach can improve biochar's mechanical strength, nutrient content, and water holding capacity, making it more suitable for applications in construction materials, soil amendment, and erosion control. The main disadvantage of blending and compositing is the potential for increased production costs and complexity, as well as the need for careful selection and compatibility of the blended materials.
Biochar UpgradingBased on your starting feedstock or biochar and your targeted market we can formulate a bespoke approach for the upgrading of biochar for improved properties and enhanced value. We have the infrastructure and expertise to undertake all the upgrading approaches described above. Our experts will formulate an experimental plan for testing and optimising biochar upgrading strategies.
Testing Upgraded Biochar for Desired Market ApplicationsWe have a wide array of equipment and analysis packages to fully evaluate the chemical and physical properties of your upgraded biochar. Examples of such analyses include: surface area and porosity, water holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, and carbon content and stability. In many biochar upgrading projects the tests results will feed-back to our upgrading experiments so that we can seee the effects of process conditions on biochar properties, allowing for the process to be optimised in an iterative and cost-effective manner.
Our Biomass Detective! Designs, tests, optimizes and validates robust analytical methods for properties of relevance to the various biochar market applications.
PhD (Analytical Chemistry)
Dreamer and achiever. Took Celignis from a concept in a research project to being the bioeconomy's premier provider of analytical and bioprocessing expertise.
A serial innovator managing multiple projects. Has particular expertise related to the upgrading of biochar and on the assessment of its impact on plant productivity and soil health.