Biochar Production and Utilization

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biochar is a charcoal-like material produced from biomass through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis involves heating biomass, such as agricultural residues, wood chips, or forestry waste, in the absence of oxygen, converting it into biochar, bio-oil, and syngas. Biochar is a highly porous and stable material with various applications in agro-waste management and soil health improvement.

Impact on climate action

Biochar Production and Utilization in Agro-Waste Management mitigates climate change by converting agricultural waste into a stable form of carbon. By sequestering carbon in soil, biochar improves soil fertility, enhances crop yields, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.


  • Pyrolysis: Pyrolysis is the primary process used to produce biochar from biomass. Different types of pyrolysis reactors exist, including slow pyrolysis, fast pyrolysis, and intermediate pyrolysis, each producing biochar with different properties.
  • Biomass Feedstocks: Biochar can be produced from various biomass feedstocks, including agricultural residues (e.g., corn stover, rice husks), forestry waste (e.g., wood chips, sawdust), and dedicated energy crops (e.g., switchgrass, miscanthus).
  • Biochar Properties and Applications: The properties of biochar, such as its porosity, surface area, and chemical composition, vary depending on the feedstock and pyrolysis conditions. These properties determine its suitability for different applications.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Biochar can store carbon in the soil for centuries, contributing to climate change mitigation by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Soil Health Improvement: Biochar can improve soil health by increasing water retention, nutrient availability, and microbial activity. This can lead to increased crop yields and reduced reliance on fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Wastewater Treatment: Biochar can be used as an adsorbent to remove contaminants from wastewater, offering a sustainable solution for water treatment.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Pyrolysis Reactors: Researchers and startups are developing advanced pyrolysis reactors that offer higher efficiency, improved feedstock flexibility, and better control over biochar properties. This includes developing reactors that can handle a wider range of feedstocks and produce biochar with specific characteristics for different applications.
  • Catalytic Pyrolysis: Using catalysts in the pyrolysis process can improve biochar quality and increase the yield of desired products, such as bio-oil or syngas.
  • Biochar Modification and Functionalization: Researchers are developing methods to modify and functionalize biochar to enhance its performance for specific applications, such as soil health improvement and water treatment. This includes adding nutrients, microorganisms, or other amendments to biochar to improve its effectiveness.
  • Integrated Biochar Production and Utilization Systems: Integrating biochar production with other processes, such as biomass gasification or composting, can create more efficient and cost-effective systems for biomass utilization and waste management.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Pyrolysis Technology Advancements
  • Biomass Feedstock Diversification
  • Tailored Biochar Properties
  • Carbon Sequestration Solutions
  • Soil Health Enhancement Techniques
  • Wastewater Treatment Innovations
  • Advanced Pyrolysis Reactors
  • Catalytic Pyrolysis Methods
  • Biochar Functionalization Strategies
  • Integrated Biomass Utilization Systems
  • Customized Biochar Products
  • Biochar-Based Fertilizers
  • Sustainable Soil Management Practices
  • Water Quality Improvement Solutions
  • Biochar’s Role in Climate Change Mitigation

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Standard Bio:
    • Technology Enhancement: Standard Bio focuses on advanced biochar production methods, utilizing innovative pyrolysis and activation techniques to convert biomass into high-quality biochar. Their technology emphasizes efficient carbon sequestration and the production of biochar with tailored properties suitable for various applications.
    • Uniqueness: Standard Bio stands out for its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. They prioritize sourcing biomass from renewable sources and employ carbon-negative production processes, ensuring that their biochar products not only sequester carbon but also contribute to soil health and fertility.
    • End-User Segments: Standard Bio caters to a diverse range of end-user segments, including agriculture, horticulture, landscaping, and environmental remediation. Their biochar products are utilized for soil amendment, carbon sequestration, moisture retention, and nutrient management, offering sustainable solutions for improving soil health and mitigating climate change.
  2. Carbon Gold:
    • Technology Enhancement: Carbon Gold specializes in premium biochar products designed to enhance soil health, plant growth, and environmental sustainability. Their biochar is produced using proprietary pyrolysis methods, resulting in biochar with high porosity, surface area, and nutrient retention capacity.
    • Uniqueness: Carbon Gold differentiates itself through its focus on product quality and efficacy. They conduct extensive research and development to optimize their biochar formulations for specific soil types and plant species, ensuring maximum benefits for growers and environmental sustainability.
    • End-User Segments: Carbon Gold primarily serves the agriculture, horticulture, and landscaping industries, where the demand for sustainable soil amendments and plant growth enhancers is high. Their biochar products are used for improving soil structure, fertility, water retention, and nutrient availability, promoting healthier and more resilient plant growth while reducing environmental impact.
  3. Biochar Now:
    • Technology Enhancement: Biochar Now specializes in scalable biochar production systems and innovative utilization methods tailored for various applications. Their technology encompasses both traditional and advanced pyrolysis techniques, allowing for the production of biochar with diverse properties and functionalities.
    • Uniqueness: Biochar Now distinguishes itself through its customizable solutions and focus on community engagement. They work closely with local stakeholders, including farmers, municipalities, and waste management facilities, to develop tailored biochar solutions that address specific needs and challenges.
    • End-User Segments: Biochar Now serves a wide range of end-user segments, including agriculture, forestry, wastewater treatment, and renewable energy. Their biochar products are utilized for soil amendment, carbon sequestration, water filtration, and energy generation, offering sustainable solutions for improving environmental health and resilience at the local and regional levels.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University is a pioneer in the field of Biochar Production and Utilization, focusing on developing sustainable methods for converting agricultural waste into biochar, a carbon-rich material with soil amendment properties.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the optimization of thermochemical conversion processes such as pyrolysis and gasification for the production of high-quality biochar from various biomass feedstocks, including crop residues, forestry residues, and animal manure. They also investigate the impact of biochar application on soil health, nutrient cycling, and greenhouse gas emissions in diverse agricultural systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in soil remediation, carbon sequestration, and agricultural productivity enhancement. By producing biochar from agro-waste and integrating it into soil management practices, Cornell’s research contributes to improving soil fertility, water retention, and crop yields while mitigating environmental risks associated with waste disposal and land degradation.
  2. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: University of California, Berkeley conducts innovative research on Biochar Production and Utilization, leveraging its expertise in environmental science, engineering, and sustainable agriculture to develop scalable and cost-effective biochar production technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design and optimization of pyrolysis reactors, biochar activation methods, and post-processing techniques to tailor the physicochemical properties of biochar for specific agricultural applications. They also explore the use of biochar-based composite materials, biochar-amended fertilizers, and biochar-enhanced bioenergy systems to create value-added products and enhance resource efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in organic farming, soil conservation, and climate change mitigation. By advancing biochar production and utilization technologies, UC Berkeley’s research supports sustainable agricultural practices, promotes circular economy principles, and contributes to achieving climate resilience and food security goals.
  3. University of Edinburgh:
    • Research Focus: University of Edinburgh is engaged in innovative research on Biochar Production and Utilization, focusing on understanding the physicochemical properties, environmental impacts, and agronomic benefits of biochar in different soil and climate contexts.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the characterization of biochar feedstocks, production conditions, and application methods to optimize soil amendment efficacy and long-term carbon sequestration potential. They also explore the interactions between biochar, soil microbiota, and plant roots to elucidate mechanisms underlying biochar-induced soil fertility improvements and crop yield enhancements.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in sustainable land management, carbon farming, and ecosystem restoration. By generating scientific knowledge and practical guidelines for biochar utilization, University of Edinburgh’s research supports evidence-based decision-making, technology adoption, and policy development aimed at enhancing soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience in agricultural landscapes.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biochar is being implemented in commercial-scale projects for various applications, including agriculture, horticulture, and environmental remediation. For example, biochar is being used as a soil amendment to improve crop yields and reduce fertilizer use, and it is also being used to remediate contaminated soil and water.