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Biochar impact on soil processes and as additive in soil remediation

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Biochar is charcoal made for environment purposes. It is produced by burning up biomass in the absence or limited amount of oxygen through carbonisation, pyrolysis or gasification. Biochar role in carbon sequestration put great emphasis in the study of its impact on soil processes. Discovery of Terra Preta (patches of fertile soil) in the Amazon had shown how incorporation of biochar into the soil improves its fertility compared to soil surrounding the area. Moreover biochar in the form of activated carbon has been the main acceptable method for several soil and groundwater remediation techniques. As a realistic option for farmers in developing countries, earth pit for biochar production was constructed and the carbonisation process was later analysed by using TGA -FTIR. The effect of carbonisation to surrounding soil was investigated. The most significant change observed was the increase in the soil pH value from 4.3 to 6.7. Biochar is able to improve soil water retention of coarse and loam soil in unsaturated zone and permeability of clay under saturated condition. Proctor test on synthetic loam soil incorporate with biochar with different pore size demonstrate biochar also has the ability to reduce maximum dried density of soil and increase optimum moisture content. It improves the CEC of acidic soil and capable to reduce nitrogen leaching from peat soil even under heavy rainfall. Alas all the positive nature of biochar, it also has the ability to disturb the ecosystem simply by observing the changes that occurs in a simple Winogradsky column experiment. Biochar role in re-establishment of vegetation for phytoremediation on heavily polluted soil has also been explored. Adsorption capacity of laboratory made palm frond biochar and several commercially available biochars were evaluated on its maximum adsorption capacity of heavy metals, kinetics, mechanism of adsorption and competition between the metals contaminants for the biochar’s sorption sites.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Geotechnical Research Seminars series.

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