New biochar centre launched

Charcoal produced at the University could be the latest tool to help tackle climate change.

A new unit at the University will produce biochar - a charcoal-like substance produced through the oxygen-free, slow heating of agricultural waste.

Researchers say that when biochar is added to soil, it 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.

Biochar can help to improve soil quality and allow better waste management and soil improvement - all on a scale achievable by a town, village or farm, researchers say.

Biochar is a process that can take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere. Materials that are currently waste products could be turned into useful substances that not only prevent greenhouse gases from accumulating in our atmosphere, but also help farmers produce more crops and use less fertiliser.

Stuart HaszeldineScottish Power Professor of Carbon Capture & Storage

New unit

The new unit, unveiled on 24 May at 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.

The 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 MašekLecturer in Engineering Assessment of Biochar

Biochar research

Using biochar is a young, but rapidly developing, area of climate change research.

The UK Biochar Research Centre, located in the University’s School of GeoSciences, is the largest research centre focused on biochar in the World.

It is an interdisciplinary centre that covers areas such as producing biochar, soil science and social science.

I am delighted that the University has achieved a world first with this project. The research centre's exciting work will be vital as we gauge the full carbon-cutting potential of biochar. This work once again highlights the world-leading achievements being made in our Universities.

Charles HendryMinister of State for Energy
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