[Gasification] Biochar et al.

Joe Barnas joe.barnas333 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 7 19:33:51 CST 2013


Thankyou for the insightful overview of biochar and comparative
functionality of Zeolite, of which I was not familiar.

However one thing I am focused on is how to address catastrophic global
climate change and for that having billions of gardeners sequestering
carbon, while building healthy soil and hence healthy food is not something
that Zeolite can provide.  It is another tool in growing food, yes, but
let's not lose sight of the long term benefit of promoting biochar.  I
might even try mixing some with biochar just to gain the N adsorption

On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 2:00 PM, David Murphy <djfmurphy at dodo.com.au> wrote:

> Greetings Biochar/Gasifier people !
> Everybody & his dog seems to have something to say about
> charcoal/biochar/biochar-compost mix and so on.    Well, here’s another
> dog to bark his piece !
> Biochar is often seen as the great agricultural panacea, but *it is not*.
> Biochar is a name given to plain ordinary charcoal to indicate that it is
> destined for use in soil improvement, but basically it is still plain
> ordinary charcoal, just crushed into smaller particles.  In some
> circumstances it is a very beneficial tool but it is not magical as some
> proponents seem to think.   Just remember, all charcoal has a bio-origin -
> wood.
> In some Ag. trials in Australia it significantly improved crop volume
> (treble in one case) but in other instances, nothing worth writing home
> about.  It depends on what the soil is like to start with.
> Charcoal is stable.  That means it does not take part in any composting
> system (which is one primarily of bacterial digestion) and it is
> indigestible so that when offered as a dietary supplement (in poultry food
> for example) it passes through the digestive system physically unchanged
> but will adsorb a high proportion of the gases and some toxins produced in
> the process of digestion, because that is what charcoal does.    For this
> reason, it's adsorption capability, poultry will generally do better on a
> little charcoal.
> Quite a few pages could be filled on the beneficial services provided by
> charcoal as it travels through the digestive system, but it does it as
> charcoal only and as nothing else.   By all means use a little in the feed,
> you can only benefit.
> The only physical way to change the nature of charcoal is to burn it.
> That is why it lasts in soil (or wherever it is) for thousands of years.
> It has an incredibly high surface area of 360 m2 (varies) and is a mass
> of minute tunnels which in turn means a very high volume and gases become
> trapped in these tunnels.  It does not *ab*sorb, it *ad*sorbs and traps
> only.  The difference between absorb and adsorb is the same as the
> difference in liquids of suspension and solution.  Clay particles will be
> in suspension, sugar and salt go into solution.
> Charcoal is useful in an aerobic composting system because again of the
> entrapment of air in the tunnels.   A composting system goes well if
> there is enough oxygen bearing air available to the bacteria which are a
> significant part of the system.   The more air, the higher the population
> of bacteria (other factors being OK).    The charcoal itself is
> inoperative, and doesn’t change, nor is it a catalyst, it simply provides a
> service.   It will only provide a haven for soil benevolent bacteria if
> there is something trapped in the tunnels which the bacteria can eat.
> Charcoal is a good adsorber of gas and liquid simply because that is what
> it does.   Zeolite on the other hand, can have an even higher surface are
> per gram and has a propensity to entrap gases, most particularly nitrogen
> in it’s various forms – as gas – ammonium for example – and in liquids as a
> salt of NO3 .   It actually draws them in (like a magnet attracts ferric
> objects) where charcoal just takes it as it comes.    It is easy to see
> also why charcoal is so effective as a filter, but if you have a solution
> rich in nitrogen, run it through Zeolite and the N will be removed.  Add
> some to the litter in poultry grower sheds, there will be fewer
> mortalities because the ammonia which sometimes will asphixiate small birds
> will be absorbed.    Zeolite will take N out of solution, charcoal will
> not.    There's 40 natural forms of Zeolite and more than another 150 can
> be synthesised, so choose carefully for the one most appropriate to your
> problem.    Zeolite can perform an amazing range of actions.    Once used
> and applied as fertiliser, Zeolite subsequently will release the N slowly
> and remain in the soil as a balancer of N.  Too much, it will take it in
> (so that the soil pH is not lowered) and release it as required.
> Charcoal’s great stuff though, it's easy to make and holds answers to a
> lot of problems - but not all !
> David Murphy.
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Joe Barnas
Portland, OR
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