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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #349534

Research Project: Increasing the Productivity and Resilience to Climate Variability of Agricultural Production Systems in the Upper Midwest U.S. while Reducing Negative Impact on the Environment

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Activated carbon, biochar and charcoal: Linkages and synergies across pyrogenic carbon's ABC

Author
item Hagerman, Nikolas - Agroscope
item Spokas, Kurt
item Schmidt, Hans-peter - Ithaka Institute For Carbon Strategies
item Kagi, Ralf - Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute Of Aquatic Science And Technology
item Bohler, Marc - Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute Of Aquatic Science And Technology
item Bucheli, Thomas - Agroscope

Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2018
Publication Date: 2/9/2018
Citation: Hagerman, N., Spokas, K.A., Schmidt, H., Kagi, R., Bohler, M., Bucheli, T.D. 2018. Activated carbon, biochar and charcoal: Linkages and synergies across pyrogenic carbon's ABC. Water. 10(2):182. https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020182.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020182

Interpretive Summary: This manuscript presents a review of the literature for biochar research, with a particular emphasis on the historical research that has been conducted on charcoal and coal. Even though these are different materials by definition, these are materials that share a commonality in terms of their chemical composition, structure, and properties. This review highlights some of the historic data on charcoal activation which is critical as researchers are progressing with activating biochar materials. This review shows that biochar research should take advantage of the numerous techniques available to tailor these materials for their intended applications. These results are significant to farmers and policy makers and will assist scientists and engineers in understanding the potential pathways to achieve a desired attribute for biochar.

Technical Abstract: Biochar and activated carbon, both carbonaceous pyrogenic materials, are important products for environmental technology and intensively studied for a multitude of purposes. A strict distinction between these materials is not always possible, and also a generally accepted terminology is lacking. However, research on both materials is increasingly overlapping: sorption and remediation are the domain of activated carbon, which nowadays is also addressed by studies on biochar. Thus, awareness of both fields of research and knowledge about the distinction of biochar and activated carbon is necessary for designing novel research on pyrogenic carbonaceous materials. Here, we describe the dividing ranges and common grounds of biochar, activated carbon and other pyrogenic carbonaceous materials such as charcoal based on their history, definition and production technologies. This review also summarizes thermochemical conversions and non-thermal pre- and post-treatments that are used to produce biochar and activated carbon. Our overview shows that biochar research should take advantage of the numerous techniques of activation and modification to tailor biochars for their intended applications.