Biochar is a type of charcoal that results from heating biological ingredients, such as wood and bone, in a low- or no-oxygen environment – a process known as pyrolysis. In southern climates, biochar has proven environmental benefits when added to soil, including enhanced soil fertility, improved plant growth, and degradation of contaminants.
“It’s a case of ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’” says Derek Peak, associate professor of soil science and co-investigator on the project. “We use materials that are otherwise considered waste to make a product that decontaminates soil.”
“Our goal is to reduce soil restoration costs and increase restoration success in northern Canada by providing a local source of biochar that is specifically formulated for northern soil restoration.”
The team, led by soil science professor Steve Siciliano, will use the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to analyze contaminated soil before and after the addition of biochar. One of the project’s test sites is a former petroleum storage facility in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan where this research is aimed at finding improved methods of managing petroleum impacts in the soil and groundwater.
The project is funded by a $660,600 “Idea to Innovation” grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) with additional support from Yukon College and industry partners, including Federated Cooperatives Limited, Nunatta Environmental, and Zakus Farms.
Producing biochar in the North presents some technical hurdles, such as limited access to pyrolysis machines and cow bones, which are often used to make biochar. The research team is using locally available sources, such as fish, whale and bison bone, to produce biochar.
Siciliano noted that Yukon College has a biochar development program with Zakus Farms.
“Together, the U of S and Yukon College have the expertise, experience and know-how needed to solve the challenges associated with the commercialization of biochar for northern needs,” Siciliano says.
Northern-sourced biochar will create a new market for remediation materials produced near where the contaminated soil is found. The research team is already working with industry partners to find the optimal bone biochar for their soil restoration efforts.
Michael Robin | Newswise Science News
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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