Heriot-Watt researchers investigate a new carbon capture method

Professor Raffaella Ocone from Heriot-Watt University is leading an international team which has been awarded funding to investigate a potential new method of carbon capture.

The award of £105,056 from the Leverhume Trust will investigate the carbon capture potential of biochar, a by-product of photosynthesis.

Biochar, a solid compound rich in carbon and inorganic elements, is produced when organic materials are thermally decomposed in the absence of oxygen. Plants synthesise organic carbon via photosynthesis and a portion of that carbon is the locked in the biochar and returned to the soil.

Reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide

Increased interest in bioenergy and by-products derived from the thermal conversion has led to new interest in biochar and studies and field tests around the world are confirming biochar's unique soil amendment properties. In addition, biochar offers a viable way to reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and presents an economical alternative to CO2 capture and storage.

Multidisciplinary research in the sustainable production and use of biochar as a long term storage for CO2 is still in its infancy. Research is needed on whether industrial scale biochar production and usage is possible.

The creation of this UK-Canadian network, led by Heriot-Watt, will investigate the potential of biochar as a technically and economically effective method of capturing carbon in a stabilised form adaptability of agriculture to climate change.

Photo courtesy Dr Ondrej Masek, University of Edinburgh