For years we have been providing assistance, in view of the continuous rise of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere caused by the irresponsible use of fossil fuels produced from organic material accumulated on our planet during previous geological periods. Today, thanks to the discovery of Terra Preta, we know that man can produce a form of carbon from agricultural waste, which remains stable for millennia: biochar. Biochar may be an opportunity to invert the flow of carbon monoxide, and its sequestration from the atmosphere, as its application in carbon amendment is competitive compared to other carbon sequestration techniques, with which it is also integratable. In particular, biochar may be effective in reforestation projects as the transformation process (through pyrolysis) and burial of part of the biomass produced by plants, may cause further positive feedback, consisting of the progressive increase of the wood's productivity, induced by the contribution of biochar itself.
Apart from extremely large-scale projects such as reforestation, it can be applied on farms, vegetable gardens, horticulture, in all cases enabling carbon sequestration, the improvement of terrain fertility and a rise in the retention of water as well as soil nutrients (calcium, potassium and phosphorus in particular). Biochar also has the ability to bond with ammonium and release it gradually into the root system of plants. This leads to the improved use of nitrogenous fertilisers, with positive effects both for farmers (cost reduction) and the environment, due to the reduction of nitrous oxide emissions and the leaching of nutrients from the soil. Other benefits derive from high temperatures during thermo-chemical treatment, ensuring the complete thermal destruction of any pathogens which may be present in the initial matrix. This means that even material from orchards decommissioned due to epidemics may be suitable for exploitation.
Apart from carbon sequestration applications in the soil, biochar is potentially useful in a number of other fields, for example waste water treatment, the removal of pollutants from water solutions and soils, active carbon production, biofilters, super-condensers, etc.
RES has focused on thermo-chemical processes of pyrogasification for the production of syngas and biochar from organic matrices, through controlled process conditions. Syngas is a combustible synthetic gas, whereas biochar is a highly porous, fine-grain solid by-product, rich in stable residual carbon, very similar to conventional charcoal.