Biochar, a biotechnology, is a C based material produced via pyrolysis of biomass (with a limited and controlled Oxygen supply) with an enormous surface area from the nanoscale (pores) and larger that can be functionalised, determined by: the feedstock type, the pyrolysis technology and operation, biological inoculation, combination with other elements or compounds or even bio-composite requirements. In other words - 'designer biochars' are possible that can be matched to the application, possibly using a combination of an interface/autonomous lab with machine learning (ML) software and rapid material prototyping then all the way to field trials and commercialisation at different scales of manufacturing.
- What desirable properties (biological, chemical, physical) does the Biochar material need for the application eg. A specific plant/crop?
- what material/resource can be replaced with a new Biochar material?
The Mother of all biochar chemical engineering questions:
I can think of a number of applications where an autonomous lab might not be very useful:
eg1. in the case of gardening, horticulture, agriculture, agroforestry et al - biochar compost (alchemy)
The sky is the limit for how much chemistry research could be done around this but field trials with different biochar composts combined with different ingredients eg.manures, sea kelp etc. for different plants in different soils in different climates would probably be a better strategy. A lot of research has already been done in this area but there's probably a lot more to do as every growing system using biochar compost would be variable for the best results
eg2. biochar (80% w/w) combined with 'no-bake binders' (according to the 'Composite Materials Consultancy' in the UK) to produce biochar bricks. I should mention too they seem to be fire retardant.
Although understanding the chemistry is important, testing mechanical properties are presumably more important for building material research.
The 3D biochar matrix