Biochar characterization and engineering

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Brewer, Catherine
Major Professor
Robert C Brown
David A Laird
Committee Member
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Chemical and Biological Engineering

The function of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has been to prepare students for the study and application of chemistry in industry. This focus has included preparation for employment in various industries as well as the development, design, and operation of equipment and processes within industry.Through the CBE Department, Iowa State University is nationally recognized for its initiatives in bioinformatics, biomaterials, bioproducts, metabolic/tissue engineering, multiphase computational fluid dynamics, advanced polymeric materials and nanostructured materials.

The Department of Chemical Engineering was founded in 1913 under the Department of Physics and Illuminating Engineering. From 1915 to 1931 it was jointly administered by the Divisions of Industrial Science and Engineering, and from 1931 onward it has been under the Division/College of Engineering. In 1928 it merged with Mining Engineering, and from 1973–1979 it merged with Nuclear Engineering. It became Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2005.

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1913 - present

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  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1913–1928)
  • Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering (1928–1957)
  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1957–1973, 1979–2005)
    • Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (2005–present)

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Slow pyrolysis, fast pyrolysis and gasification are thermochemical processes to produce fuel and chemicals from biomass. The char co-products from these processes have much potential as biochars: sustainably produced biomass charcoals used for amending soils and sequestering carbon. As biochar properties vary significantly with feedstock and reaction conditions, biochar characterization is critical for understanding these variations, for obtaining meaningful data from biochar agronomic studies, and for determining the most beneficial and economical application of a given char co-product (fuel, sorbent or soil amendment). This dissertation describes biochar characterization methods used to relate thermochemical reaction conditions such as temperature, heating rate and reaction atmosphere to biochar properties. These methods include proximate analysis, CHNS elemental analysis, BET surface area gas sorption analysis, helium pycnometry, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), FT infrared spectroscopy with photoacoustic detection (FTIR-PAS), advanced solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), cation exchange capacity (CEC), pH, electrical conductivity, and short-term soil incubations with soil respiration and water retention measurements. One outcome of this research has been the incorporation of biochars derived from corn stover and switchgrass, and derived by fast pyrolysis and gasification, in the wider biochar community discussions.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2012