50 Uses For BioChar

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In certain very poor soils, positive effects on soil fertility were seen when applying biochar. These include the higher capacity of the soil to store water, aeration of the soil and the release of nutrients through raising the soil’s ph-value. In temperate climates, biochar should only be used when first loaded with nutrients and when the char surfaces have been activated through microbial oxidation [MIXED WITH COMPOST]. The best method of loading nutrients is to co-compost with the char. The compost can be used as a highly efficient substitute for peat in potting soil, greenhouses, nurseries and other special cultures.

When biochar is used as a carrier for plant nutrients, efficient mineral and organic long-term fertilizers can be produced. Such fertilizers prevent the leaching of nutrients, a negative aspect of conventional fertilizers. The nutrients are available as and when the plants need them. Through the stimulation of microbial symbiosis, the plant takes up the nutrients from the porous carbon structure. Through mixing biochar with such organic compost, organic carbon-based fertilizers can be produced. These are at least as efficient as conventional fertilizers, and have the advantage of not having the well-known adverse effects on the ecosystem.\n Biochar contains all the trace elements originally contained in the source biomass. During pyrolysis (Biochar production), the crucial trace elements (over 50 metals) become part of the carbon structure, thereby preventing them being leached out and making them available to plants via root exudates and microbial symbiosis. This feature can be used specifically when certain trace elements are missing in a certain regional soil or in soil-free intensive cultures [HYPDROPONICS]  such as “Dutch tomatoes”.\n A range of by-products are produced during pyrolysis. These remain stuck to the pores and surfaces of the biochar and in many cases have the ability to mobilize plant’s internal immune systems, thereby increasing its resistance to pathogens (Elad et al. 2011). This potential use is however only just now being developed and still requires a lot of research effort.

Two of biochar’s properties are its extremely low thermal conductivity and its ability to absorb water up to 6 times its weight. These properties mean that biochar is just the right material for insulating buildings and regulating humidity. In combination with clay, but also with lime and cement mortar, biochar can be added to sand at a ratio of up to 50%. This creates indoor plasters with excellent insulation and breathing properties, able to maintain humidity levels in a room at 45 – 70% in both summer and winter. This in turn prevents not just dry air, which can lead to respiratory disorders and allergies, but also dampness through air condensing on the outside walls, which can lead to mould developing (see (in German):Biochar as building material for an optimal indoor climate)

Such biochar-mud plaster adsorbs smells and toxins, a property not just benefiting smokers. Alongside their use in housing, biochar-mud plasters are particularly good for warehouses, factory and agricultural buildings as well as in schools and other rooms frequented by people.\n Biochar is a very efficient adsorber of electromagnetic radiation, meaning that biochar-mud plaster is very good at preventing “electrosmog”.\n Biochar can also be applied to the outside walls of a building by jet-spray technique mixing it with lime. Applied at thicknesses of up to 20 cm, it is a substitute for styrofoam. Houses insulated this way become carbon sinks, while at the same time having a more healthy indoor climate.

17. Soil additive for soil remediation [for use in particular on former mine-works, military bases and landfill sites.]

18. Soil substrates [highly adsorbing, plantable soil substrates for use in cleaning waste water; in particular urban waste water contaminated by heavy metals]

19. A barrier preventing pesticides getting into surface water [sides of field and ponds can be equipped with 30-50 cm deep barriers made of biochar for filtering out pesticides.]

20. Treating pond and lake water [Biochar is good for adsorbing pesticides and fertilizers, as well as for improving water aeration.]

First tests show that, through adding biochar to a fermenter’s biomass (especially heterogeneous biomasses), the methane and hydrogen yield is increased, while at the same time decreasing CO2 and ammonia emissions. Through treating biogas slurry with lacto-ferments and biochar, nutrients are better stored and emissions prevented (see (in German): The sustainable production of biogas through climate farming)

In Japan and China bamboo-based biochars are already being woven into textiles (Lin et al. 2008) to gain better thermal and breathing properties and to reduce the development of odors through sweat. The same aim is pursued through the inclusion of biochar in inlay soles and socks.

Biochar adsorbs perspiration and odors, shields against electromagnetic radiation (electrosmog), and removes negative ions from the skin. Moreover, it acts as a thermal insulator reflecting heat, thereby enabling comfortable sleep without any heat build-up in summer. In Japan, pillows have been filled with biochar for a long time. This is supposed to prevent insomnia and neck tension.

Biochar can be used in microwave ovens, television sets, power supplies, computers, power sockets, etc. to shield against electromagnetic radiation. This property can also be used in functional clothing as protection for parts of the body particularly sensitive to radiation.

We have listed 50 possible uses of biochar. However, it is our intention to keep adding to the list over the years, as experience builds up.

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