Researchers are trying to find better ways to tackle the mass production of organic and inorganic waste. The most common organic waste is in the form of waste food, forest waste from tree trimming, and animal dung. Biochar is nothing but a carbon-rich material derived from organic waste, which can be utilized in many industries. With such usefulness, the global biochar market is expected to reach USD 587.7 million by 2030.
The term organic which is sometimes referred to as biomass is any material that is obtained from plants and animals. This biomass waste can easily break down and decompose itself with the help of microscopic living things such as fungi, bacteria, and microbes. Biochar helps to mitigate the environmental impact of this kind of waste by adding the value of reusability to it.
What Is Biochar?
Biochar is a type of charcoal derived from agricultural or forest residues by decomposing at high temperatures under controlled circumstances. During the process, the chemical and physical properties of the residue material are changed into a highly porous, stable carbon-rich material known as biochar. There are different types of thermochemical processes used for the production of biochar.
Biochar is basically a combination of carbon and ash, its elemental compositions and properties vary with the feedstock material and process of production. The feedstock is nothing but the waste material used for thermochemical conversion. The results of each thermochemical process and the properties of biochar depend on what kind of feedstock is used for that process. Some common feedstock includes food waste, plastic, sewage sludge, agricultural by-products, and others.
The first way to obtain the thermochemical conversion of biomass is by pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is a method of heating organic waste at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen. It is usually carried out at or above 500 °C. Due to the presence of oxygen, combustion does not occur and the biomass thermally decomposes into biochar combustible gasses.
There are two types of pyrolysis such as slow pyrolysis and fast pyrolysis. This method depends on the residence time and the rate of heating. In the slow pyrolysis method, the biochar is produced by applying heat to the biomass which is comparatively at a low temperature for a long residence time. Fast pyrolysis uses high-temperature heat for a short residence time for the production of biochar.
Another method used for biochar production is gasification. It is basically a process used to convert biomass or any carbon-containing materials into gas. In the gasification process, waste materials are heated at an elevated temperature near about 700 °C with the limited presence of oxygen and primarily converted into gas.
Applications of Biochar
It is important to understand the need and properties of biochar before using it. Every final biochar product has distinct properties which can be useful for different reasons. With its varying properties, biochar has a wide range of applications and some of them are as listed below.
In order to reduce pollution and toxic elements from the soil, biochar is frequently used as a soil amendment. Furthermore, it helps to avoid soil leaching, moisture loss, and fertilizer runoff.
With its extremely low thermal conductivity and ability to absorb water, biochar is used as a building material for insulating buildings and regulating humidity.
Biochar can also be used in microwave ovens, power supplies, television sets, and computers to protect against electromagnetic radiation.
Future Scope of Biochar
Considering the variety of qualities biochar elements have and their positive impact on the environment. Many scientists have turned to biochar as a simple yet powerful solution for climate challenges occurring due to organic waste. To build circular economies, every kind of waste needs to be either eliminated or recycled into new valuables. This demand helped biochar production to grow.
Upcoming research is focusing on accomplishing the common need of developing reusable products from waste materials that can be further used in different sectors. Also, with the advancements in technology and cautiousness towards the environment, biochar production will be considered a necessity.