Disclaimer: As much as I love apptech, the technology itself shouldn't be that which takes over our lives. What's more important is that plenty of biochar is produced and integrated into the
economies of the world so that over time we can eventually and safely drawdown Carbon out of the atmosphere and prevent or even reverse global climate heating and restore a safe climate. It's a
climate emergency! The change to the environment that biochar could bring is partly known and partly unknown but the possibilities are endless and continually fascinate me!
Biochar kiln information - a kiln for (almost) every application...
Oregon Hybrid Kiln V2
A flatpackable/transportable adaptation of Kelpie Wilson's original 'Oregon' forestry waste kiln. Designed for 2mm hot rolled steel. Next version will be designed for 3mm hot rolled steel.
Modular, lightweight, flat-packable (transportable), extendable (expandable volume). Good for most sizes of feedstock eg. bamboo, rice straw. Can be used as a 'swale machine' using the FMBK in hybrid mode by digging a pit underneath the kiln. Every burn can be used to extend the length of the swale. To obtain soil-free biochar, use a soaked HD canvas drop sheet (experimental)/soaked carpet (ensuring no gaps on top of kiln) to snuff the burn. To obtain a biochar blend, use soil from the pit, compost and additional clay if available to snuff the burn. Leave some of mix in swale for planting and remainder for top soil layer in wicking beds or wicking pots. Soil-free biochar for wicking aquifers & aquaponics. If mix is too alkaline, to quote Dr PT "sprinkle on some Iron sulphate as you go. You can spray on some phosphoric acid to the milled or un-milled biochar; do a titration on a small volume first to see how much you need". Designed with 1.5mm Corten steel.
A biochar kiln for the home gardener. Can also be used as a 3 in 1 - biochar kiln, BBQ and fire pit. Recommended to build with 3mm mild steel. Just add optional tilting frame and drain. Suitable for use in between the fire seasons. Inspired by Dr Paul Taylor, Hans-Peter Schmidt and original 'Moki' kiln
I've summarised the above kilns and stoves according to biomass feedstock size. Note that my preference for biochar apptech is completely biased since I designed most of what I'm about to
recommend (with a lot of help from my friends):
*Small feedstock eg. Pellets/sticks/coconut shell/corn cob/rice husk etc. - Try the '1G Toucan TLUD' or 'The 'Permastove V3' (beta - still need to prototype it) for cooking and biochar making
*Small to medium feedstock eg. large sticks, bamboo, small cut logs etc. - Try the 'Pyramid BBQ Classic' (3 in 1 BBQ, firepit, biochar making)
*Medium to large feedstock eg. Bamboo, brush, agroforestry waste, rice straw, small branches etc. - Try the Flat-Tiki 'Carbon' V3 (beta) or Kon-Tiki 1.2m production model - biomass 'waste'
removal, biochar making, heat on a cold day
*Large feedstock eg. cut and split logs etc. - slow combustion stove/wood-fired Aga (I don't think I can improve/redesign these - quite refined tech) - produces small amounts of biochar but
mostly ash (a good source of minerals and alkaline pH adjustment for acidic soils). Also good for space heating, heating water eg. wetbacking cogen for a solar hot water system, water
pastuerisation, making a hot drink; slow cooking
Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs)
Microbial fuel cell as new technology for bioelectricity generation: A review
Broad overview of MFC technology - probably best to read first before getting into the nitty gritty of it all
Yu, L. et al. Biochar as an electron shuttle for reductive dechlorination of pentachlorophenol by Geobacter sulfurreducens. Sci. Rep. 5, 16221; doi: 10.1038/srep16221 (2015)
Modelling of biochar with Geobacter sulfurreducens to dechlorinate PCP. Complicated but some interesting results - also worth considering when combining biochar electrodes with Geobacter sulfurreducens in a microbial fuel cell (possibly using contaminated soil with biochar/biochar-compost)
'The impacts of biochar and compost on microbial extracellular electron transfer processes as shown by studies on soil microbial fuel cells' Aurelio Briones and Allison Torres, University of Idaho
Promising results for a 'compost and biochar' soil microbial fuel cell (SMFC). It would be interesting to build one with biochar electrodes and couple to a supercapacitor also with biochar electrodes for a hybrid energy production and storage system - an almost sustainable power source!
Biochar Based Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) for Enhanced Wastewater Treatment and Nutrient Recovery
An awesome research project about using MFCs using biochar electrodes to purify wastewater while at the same time generating power, reclaiming nutrients and sequestrating carbon (as the spent biochar electrodes can be used as a soil amendment)
High-Selectivity Electrochemical Conversion of CO2 to Ethanol using a Copper Nanoparticle/N-Doped Graphene Electrode
Biochar is primarily constructed from graphene sheets and bucky balls...looks like biochar can be doped with google search "Can biochar be doped?" Need to pay for the articles ): Unless you have access at a Uni...
Dr N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy's design for a 'perchigation' system which basically comprises plastic lined cells with a layer of biochar in the bottom half and soil in the top half with biochar compost plantings; the cells are intra-cellularly connected by irrigation pipes. Water flows freely through cells via gravity and is filtrated by the biochar. Good for poor water quality. The 'wicking effect' is employed that allows a flow of water from the biochar saturated/irrigated section and flows upwards through the plant roots.
Fenugreek (front) and Dill (back) seedlings using biochar in a fancy potting mix with sphagnum moss and peat. Note that biochar has a higher water holding capacity (WHC) than the original potting
mix. Adding it increases the overall WHC. I also add a low concentration of Seasol and GoGo Juice to the irrigation water from my 15L weed sprayer backpack in order enhance root growth and
potting mix microbial activity.
My biochar mineral complex (BMC) piss bucket (front, middle) - I've added liquid sea kelp and Blood & Bone to the biochar. and stirred it in. Every few bucket empties (the liquid, onto the
succulents) I'll add the BMC to other pots then replace the BMC in the bucket with more biochar, kelp and BnB. The urine contains precious Nitrogen which also bonds to the BMC. The biochar
reduces the odor of the other ingredients. There's a possibility of adding desirable microbes too, such as 'Horn manure 500' in small amounts at a time. The biochar could be made from a range of
devices. If I didn't have biochar kilns, I would be using a 'Permastove' V4 (or V5 if it ever gets built...anyone wanna donate for R&D?).
Pissing in a bucket also reduces flushing water, which in most parts of Australia is fresh drinking water. Saving fresh drinking water is vital in drylands where I live - it's not valued highly
enough by many people but that will probably change as more droughts will become normal in many areas due to climate change acceleration. Also, why not create a beautiful place to piss?!
Carbon-based energy storage
Progress of biochar supercapacitors
Published in 2013 - much progress since then but good snapshot and some great pictures
Phytolith-occluded organic C in intensively managed Lei bamboo (Phyllostachys praecox) stands and implications for carbon sequestration
Research on phytolith-occluded carbon (PhytOC)/'plantstone'/'plant opal'/'opal phytolith'/'biogenic opal'/'silica cells'/'grass opal' in bamboo focusing on intensively managed Lei bamboo. Could biochar produced with high yielding PhytOC biomass be the key to long-term carbon bio-sequestration?
More info on phytoliths by J.F. Parr and L.A. Sullivan . To quote an intersting excerpt "...the resistance of PhytOC against decomposition processes resulted in PhytOC comprising up to 82% (with a mean of 42%) of the total carbon pool in the buried topsoils after 1000 years of decomposition.
The Transformation of Phytolith Morphology as the Result of their Exposure to High Temperature
A case study using rice husk and leaf to check phytolith morphology stability when exposed to fire which is relevant for biochar pyrolysis understanding. It suggests that rice husk is the most fire resilient part of the rice plant. Rice husk can be made into pellets for TLUD stoves or burnt directly in rice husk downdraft gasifiers. It is assumed that the more stable the phytolith morphology, the longer the residence time of the phytolith for long-term biogeochemical C (and Si) sequestration...
Harvest bamboo/rice straw/rice husk-->chop up bamboo/dry bamboo/rice straw/rice husk feedstock-->cook taro on TLUD gasifier/cogeneration via biochar kiln->add the biochar to the animal
feed (+ use biochar for water filtration)-->feed to water buffaloe/cow/pig-->livestock shits->take the manure/biochar complex and add to biodigester (biochar also reduces
smell)-->collect the gas for cooking/electricity-->take the biodigester effluent/byproduct and add to soil-->grow the taro/rice/bamboo-->harvest (back to the start)
How biochar could be integrated into a SE Asian economy
In the above flowchart, the barrels/IBCs just need basic plumbing connectors (similar to those used by Aqueous Solutions in their water filtration system). The first stage of the filter will have
the highest concentration of salt and will need to be emptied once the output water reaches greater than 600 mg/Litre of salt (300-600 mg/Litre is the desirable salt concentration in potable
water). Once position 1/stage 1 is emptied fresh biochar is added to the barrel/IBC and is rotated to position 3/third stage. Position 2/second stage becomes position 1/first stage and position
3/third stage becomes position 2/second stage. A 'TDS meter' can be used to measure the salt concentration. These are available for AUD$6.45 on eBay. Note that the unpowered measured irrigation
controller (UMIC) can provide efficient irrigation according to evaporation and rainfall.
-Here's another system for small-scale water purification and desalination
The solar oven can be built from polished stainless steel (ideally) or even cardboard and Al foil http://solarcooking.org/plans/default.htm
A pot stand is needed for the main pot/glass jar
The purifier/desalinator can be made from a used gherkin jar (water vessel), saucepan (water collector), steel bowl (condenser), TLUD pot stand (as a condenser spacer), plastic saucepan bib
(to reduce additional evaporation from the saucepan) and biochar
Direct and indirect solar radiation will hit the floating biochar creating a hot biochar-steam interface for water evaporation on to the condenser which will then drip into the saucepan for
The biochar will filter any POPs, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, dyes etc.
The thickness of the biochar layer and the particle size needs to be tweaked
Suitable for contaminated water that may also be salty/brackish
Boiling water kills deadly microbes/pathogens
More R&D needs to be done in this field!
-General water filtration
Competing water filtration technologies:
requires energy and doesn’t remove salts, pathogens and heavy metals
requires less energy than boiling and doesn’t remove salts, pathogens and heavy metals
requires less energy than boiling and pasteurisation and doesn’t remove salts, pathogens and heavy metals
-nanomembranes eg. the SolarBag
breaks down after 200 litres..more plastic in the environment
focused on salt removal
different membranes eg. plastic, graphene
focused on salt removal
need a large area and sunlight
-capacative deionisation (CDI)
expensive to commercialise
needs to be low-powered off car batteries in series to be affordable
-Aqueous Solutions barrel system
suitable for many places at the village level
-Permachar barrel system
doesn’t remove all pathogens
*A new system...the multi-stage barrel/bucket/container system to remove:
The idea I am proposing involves growing acacias, coppicing them, making biochar, creating a biochar fertiliser called Permafert (inc. Response), digging swales slightly off contour (to avoid
'wet feet'), adding the Permafert to the bottom of the swales, placing tek line along the top using the 'Unpowered Measured Irrigation Controller' (UMIC), growing hemp (using an appropriate
cultivar) then using the hemp for more biochar, housing (using hempcrete and replacing a fraction of the lime with biochar: 'hempcharcrete'), food (hemp seed, hemp protein, hemp oil),
biodiesel (as a last resort) and many other uses. I would also like to trial biochar filtration for groundwater from a bore and investigate water quality as a result of the filtration - used for
'Measured Irrigation' of the hemp plants. Irrigate when the swales have a below optimal moisture content determined by swale cores and evaporation levels. Start with a 1 hectare trial. Anyone
'Gyanbisuna' organic farm and research station, Annapurna region, Nepal
A demonstration of integrated permaculture and biochar design. Still waiting on funds for the project - please help!