Here’s a run-down on making biochar. Hover over the images to see the description.
charcoal is produced in the same low oxygen, high temp conditions as biochar
Right Hand – charcoal (produced from wood and used for heating) and Left Hand – biochar (produced from a range of carbon sources and primarily used for soil improvement)
Anthony demonstrates the biochar process using a match
the phosphorus flare of the match starts the pyrolytic process where gases, not direct flame, create the heat to burn the match – the simplest biochar!
how many matches would it take to make enough!?
Anthony outlines the process
it’s cold out
the home made TLUD – top load up draft
provide air flow at three levels, fill your material, top light it and away it goes, quickly
a portable TLUD designed for developing countries – you can cook on the top, no carcinogenic smoke in the house
the base of the main burner – holes drilled
you also need a lid and a flue
and a top burner (R) can be made from a half drum
detail of the top burner, could be good to file the sharp edges
put the drum up on tiles, allow a small amount of air to flow underneath
fill your burner with material – try to keep the s
loosely fill to the top
Anthony used eucy twigs, leaves and bark, very dried out
the biochar material
Checking out the material
add flammable fire starter like straw
the setup, set to go off/up
you’ll need very good heat resistant gloves, at least 400 degrees celcius proof
explaining the chambers
add a match and start timing – about 35 minutes for this batch
place the second burner over the main drum carefully
then the flue
you should have no smoke once it’s on
now we wait for it to heat and the gases to get going
it’s burning fiercely under low oxygen conditions – no pollutants in the air
temp is 361 celcius and it gets hotter
getting ready to stop the process – timing and safety paramount – double gloves, water source ready to put out flames, clear ground, clear people
off comes the very hot flue
then the second burner, extremely hot!
now put a lid on the fire, take care…
get the barrel ready to tip out contents
take the lid off again – watch for escaping gases and heat once smoke clears!
use a steel fork to tip the drum
upend drum, now speed is of the essence
tip ot contents, hose it quickly to cool biochar and prevent further burning
keep watering oterwise your hard made biochar will turn to ash!
then pour a seaweed solution on cooling biochar, to help start the conditioning process
keep watering until there’s no sign of smoke and keep turning the pile.
still smouldering, add more water
finished product, it clinks when you shake a handful
biochar ready for conditioning
you can still recognise the original material
a good winter exercise!
for best results biochar must be conditioned, here Anthony has added it to compost where the microbes will take up residence
biochar mixed with compost – a good way to ‘activate’ your biochar
another way to activate biochar is to mix a slurry of clay or dirt, rockdust, wood ash …
… then add biochar…
… water and add molasses – then wait for the ferment to begin! ready to use in a few days, or more