A charcoal-like substance being produced at the University could be the latest tool to help tackle climate change.
Biochar is produced by slowly heating agricultural waste in an oxygen-free environment and boasts a number of benefits.
When added to soil, biochar increases its carbon content - building a long-term store that counters excess carbon dioxide in the air and helps to reduce other greenhouse gas emissions.
The process of producing biochar also releases energy-rich gases and liquids that can be used to generate green energy, thus offsetting the use of fossil fuels.
The biochar material itself can help soil retain nutrients and water - potentially resulting in higher crop yields for farmers.
“The potential for biochar is huge. It offers the opportunity to deal with two pressing issues: one is climate change and biochar’s ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it and then secondly, to do something positive with the way soils work and produce food more efficiently.”
Dr Saran Sohi
Leader, Soil Science, UK Biochar Research Centre
Watch a video report on the work being done at the UK Biochar Research Centre.
The University of Edinburgh’s UK Biochar Research Centre is unique. It allows scientists to produce large quantities of biochar from a wide variety of different agricultural and forestry materials.
This biochar will then be used in trials at sites across the UK and around the world. By producing different forms of biochar under tightly controlled conditions, researchers hope to discover how best to match the material to different crops and soils.
"Biochar is potentially an innovative way of combating climate change at a global scale. Through the opening of this new facility, Edinburgh and Scotland are taking the lead in researching how, exactly, biochar might be able to help us reduce our carbon footprint."
Dr Ondřej Mašek
Lecturer in Engineering Assessment of Biochar
This article was published on Jan 10, 2012