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Physical disintegration of biochar: An overlooked process

K. A. Spokas, J. M. Novak, C. A. Masiello, M. G. Johnson, E. C. Colosky, J. A. Ippolito, C. Trigo
Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2014 v.1 no. pp. 326-332
absorbents, biochar, biodegradable products, carbon, carbon sequestration, oxygen, scanning electron microscopy, soil, sorption, weathering
Data collected from both artificially and field (naturally) weathered biochar suggest that a potentially significant pathway of biochar disappearance is through physical breakdown of the biochar structure. Through scanning electron microscopy (SEM) we characterized this physical weathering which increased structural fractures and possessed higher numbers of liberated biochar fragments. This was hypothesized to be due to the graphitic sheet expansion accompanying water sorption coupled with comminution. These fragments can be on the micro and nano-scale, but are still carbon-rich particles with no detectable alteration in the oxygen to carbon ratio of the original biochar. However, these particles are now easily dissolved and could be moved by infiltration. There is a need to understand how to produce biochars that are resistant to physical degradation in order to maximize long-term biochar C-sequestration potential within soil systems.