[Gasification] Charcoal/Biochar making

Thomas Reed tombreed2010 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 27 16:18:53 CDT 2013

Dear Pyrolysis/gasification List

The  jewel  in charcoal making is "autopyrolysis". Most people think Charcoal has to be made in heated kilns, but you can be in business today much more simply.  Once lit, dry fuel will auto-pyrolyse using the burning cellulose to pyrolyse the 20% lignin which converts to charcoal.

If you look on the web under 
"WoodGas Stove Pics", you will see dozens of variations on the Toplit Updraft stove I invented (in my MIT lab) in 1985, after seeing the dreadful cooking of the blacks in South Africa. 

If you take a cylinder full of woodchips, pellets or other biomass,with inlet air holes near the bottom and much larger (X5) holes near the top, and light it ON TOP with IPA or kerosene or tinder, the top layer will burn leaving charcoal, then ignite the second, third etc. until all the fuel has converted to charcoal.  With a 1.5V fan you can get a really beautiful, intense, clean burn. Without the fan, you still get a pretty clean upper gas flame and a can full of charcoal. 


If you make a tight pyramid of dry small sticks and light it on top you'll wind up with a pile of charcoal, typically a 20% yield.  Put a wet newspaper under the pile, and the steam from the last layer charring will extinguish the charcoal when the last layer is ignited.. 

Here's a picture of the Rick Heating they use to make charcoal at Jack Daniels's: (those are 4 ft logs of high density sugar maple from steep slopes):

I have measured the flame temperature in the can or pile at 500-600C. Most charcoal is made in kilns at 400-450C.  (Actually, I believe the kilns are only heated to ~ 280 C, at which point the reaction 

    CH2O (Carbo-hydrate, short for C6H12O6 (sugars and the polymers starch and cellulose)

                ===> C + H2O. (Actually most charcoals are only mostly C because they still have a lot of H and O unless heated to over 1000 C)

I am running growing tests this sping to see whether 600C charcoal is better or worse than standard 400 C charcoal. I'll keep you posted, and I look forward to hearing your experience. 

Yours for better agriculture and climate with charcoal. (One of charcoal put in the ground keps 3.7 tons of CO2 out of our atmosphere.  It is the only action that is global warming positive.

(To be continued)

Yours for better ag and air...

Tom Reed

From Tom Reed


Dr Thomas B Reed
508 353 7841

On Feb 4, 2013, at 5:28 PM, "Ralph Voss" <vosssouthpolls at gmail.com> wrote:

> Tom:
>                 Greetings from central Missouri.  You cousin Roger gave me your name.  Both Roger and his former partner Harvey Buhr (who is my cousin) tell me your the man I need to see about biochar.  So here goes.
>                 I know very little about biochar.  I read a few pages in the book 1491 that covered terra preta.  I read a two-page article you wrote with three other gentlemen.  Other than that, I know very little.  I’m a soil fanatic and want to know more.  I was delighted to see that you recommend mixing biochar with compost.  I’m going to a three-day compost school at the Rodale Institute in Kujtztown, Penn., later this month.  I already spray our pastures with raw milk, molasses, liquid fish, liquid kelp and several other amendments.  I’m delighted with the results.  I have a number of friends that use compost tea very successfully and while I’ve sprayed a little tea, I’ve not done much because I’ve not had any confidence in my ability to make good compost.
>                 If you don’t mind giving a neophyte a few pointers, I’d like to hear from you.
>                 I save links to articles I like.  Pasted in below is the link to the article I found when I googled your name.
> Thanks
> Ralph
> Biochar – Dr. Tom Reed
> http://www.carbon-negative.us/docs/UsingBiocharInSoil.pdf

Thomas B Reed 

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