Many enterprises, such as agriculture, horticulture, and timber harvest, result in carbon-rich byproducts. Typically, these byproducts decompose relatively quickly and the carbon returns to the atmosphere as CO2, where it continues to be active in the carbon cycle. Creating biochar from these waste products, however, interrupts this process and results in a net reduction in CO2 emissions.

Biochar is a charcoal-like compound that is produced through a process known as pyrolysis, in which organic matter is heated in an oxygen free environment. This process yields biochar and biofuel in the form of synthesis gas ('syngas'), which can be used as fuel or converted into hydrocarbons. Even when the syngas is used to produce energy, less CO2 is emitted than would result from decomposition, and the remaining biochar is a stable form of sequestered carbon.

For millennia, charcoal has been used to amend degraded soils. Modern research suggests that, among other potential benefits, biochar can improve soils by increasing water holding capacity, boosting nutrient retention, and improving soil structure. This, in turn, can boost productivity and restore degraded soils.

LI-8100 Automated Soil CO2 Flux System

LI-8100A Automated Soil CO2 Flux System

  • Measures CO2 exchange from soils
  • Multiplexed configuration available for larger sampling area
  • Useful for survey or long-term measurements

Although biochar shows promise as a soil amendment, its effects on soil properties are not well understood. It is known, however, that its benefits vary depending upon input materials and methods of production, as well as soil type and region in which it is applied. Assessments of the benefits of biochar are important for characterizing the effects of different types of biochar and for understanding which soils benefit the most from it. Research is currently underway to explore these topics, and additional research opportunities await in this field.

The LI-8100A Automated Soil CO2 Flux System can provide measurements that are needed to evaluate the long-term stability of biochar in soil and it can be used to assess the potential of biochar as a carbon sequestration tool. It is a robust and proven solution for both long and short-term soil CO2 flux measurements. The LI-8150 Multiplexer supports up to 16 long-term flux chambers, and provides improved spatial and temporal sampling over point measurements. It also can be adapted to multiplexed chamber-based CO2 measurements of biochar samples contained in flasks.

While biochar has been used around the world, a thorough analysis of its benefits and limitations has yet to be completed. Furthermore, its potential as a carbon sequestration tool remains largely uncharacterized. The LI-8100A is a useful tool that can help collect this information. To learn more about the LI-8100A, visit the webpage.

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