Biomass pyrolysis to produce biochar

DIPC Seminars

Dr. Andrés Anca Couce, Graz Univerity of Technoloy, Austria
Donostia International Physics Center
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Biomass pyrolysis to produce biochar Pyrolysis is the thermal degradation of a carbonaceous material in the absence of an externally supplied oxidising agent. The products of biomass pyrolysis in an inert atmosphere are a black solid material, very porous and mainly composed of carbon, called biochar; permanent gases; and a pyrolytic liquid (liquid at room temperature), which is often referred to as bio-oil or pyrolysis-oil and it is composed by more than 100 species. Biomass pyrolysis is a key technology for future bio-refinery concepts, where biomass conversion processes and equipment are integrated to produce value-added chemicals, fuels, heat and power. Bio-oil is a promising source for chemicals and it can also be upgraded to a liquid fuel for combustion engines. Biochar has plentiful applications, including its use as a fuel, activated carbon after upgrading, reducing agent in the metallurgical industry, or to improve soil properties being as well a strong CO2 sink. The recent advances in the understanding of the complex pyrolysis process will be reviewed, including quantum-mechanical calculations which have been performed to bring more insights into cellulose pyrolysis. Moreover, char structure and properties will be discussed. Despite several advances since the pioneer work of Rosalind Franklin, a biochar model structure which fully explains the unique physical and chemical properties of biochars is not yet available. Biomass char is a non-graphitizing carbon, in which a complete ordered structure is not achieved. Therefore, it is a more complex and modulable material than other carbon forms, which can potentially house more complex functions and can be, from a scientific point of view, even more interesting and challenging.