Characterization of Biochars Produced from Cornstovers for Soil Amendment
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Through cation exchange capacity assay, nitrogen adsorption−desorption surface area measurements, scanning electron microscopic imaging, infrared spectra and elemental analyses, we characterized biochar materials produced from cornstover under two different pyrolysis conditions, fast pyrolysis at 450 °C and gasification at 700 °C. Our experimental results showed that the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of the fast-pyrolytic char is about twice as high as that of the gasification char as well as that of a standard soil sample. The CEC values correlate well with the increase in the ratios of the oxygen atoms to the carbon atoms (O:C ratios) in the biochar materials. The higher O:C ratio was consistent with the presence of more hydroxyl, carboxylate, and carbonyl groups in the fast pyrolysis char. These results show how control of biomass pyrolysis conditions can improve biochar properties for soil amendment and carbon sequestration. Since the CEC of the fast-pyrolytic cornstover char can be about double that of a standard soil sample, this type of biochar products would be suitable for improvement of soil properties such as CEC, and at the same time, can serve as a carbon sequestration agent.
Reprinted with permission from Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44 (20), pp 7970–7974. Copyright 2010 American Chemical Society