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 in the absence of oxygen, converting it into biochar, bio-oil, and syngas. Biochar is a highly porous and stable material that can be used for various applications, including carbon sequestration, soil health improvement, and water treatment.

Impact on climate action

Biochar Production and Utilization within Biomass for Heating & Power advances climate action by sequestering carbon in soil while providing renewable energy. By converting biomass into biochar, this innovation enhances soil fertility, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and promotes sustainable energy production, contributing to carbon mitigation 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 wood chips, agricultural residues, and municipal solid waste.
  • 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.
  • Soil Health Improvement: Biochar can improve soil health by increasing water retention, nutrient availability, and microbial activity.
  • Water Treatment: Biochar can be used as an adsorbent to remove contaminants from water.

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.
  • Catalytic Pyrolysis: Using catalysts in the pyrolysis process can improve biochar quality and increase the yield of desired products.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Biomass Feedstock Selection for Biochar
  • Soil Health Enhancement Potential of Biochar
  • Water Treatment Applications for Biochar
  • Advanced Pyrolysis Reactors
  • Catalytic Pyrolysis Processes
  • Customized Biochar Products for Agriculture
  • Biochar in Horticulture
  • Environmental Remediation with Biochar
  • Impact of Biochar on Crop Yields

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Standard Bio:
    • Technology Enhancement: Standard Bio focuses on the production and utilization of biochar, a carbon-rich material derived from biomass through pyrolysis. Their biochar production process involves converting organic waste, such as agricultural residues and forestry by-products, into a stable form of carbon that can be used to improve soil health, sequester carbon, and enhance agricultural productivity.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Standard Bio stands out for its commitment to sustainable waste management and soil health improvement through biochar technology. Their approach involves leveraging locally sourced biomass feedstock to produce biochar using efficient and environmentally friendly pyrolysis methods. Additionally, they provide consulting services and customized biochar products tailored to specific soil and crop needs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Standard Bio serves agricultural producers, landowners, and environmental organizations seeking innovative solutions for soil improvement and carbon sequestration. Their biochar products and services are utilized in various applications, including soil amendment, carbon farming, organic waste management, and environmental remediation.
  • Carbon Gold:
    • Technology Enhancement: Carbon Gold specializes in biochar-based soil amendments and plant growth enhancers. Their biochar products are produced from sustainably sourced biomass feedstock using proprietary pyrolysis technology. Carbon Gold’s biochar formulations are designed to improve soil structure, nutrient retention, and microbial activity, promoting healthier and more productive plant growth.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Carbon Gold stands out for its expertise in biochar agronomy and its focus on developing biochar-based solutions for sustainable agriculture. Their products are scientifically formulated and field-tested to deliver measurable benefits in terms of crop yield, soil fertility, and carbon sequestration. Additionally, they provide agronomic support and consultancy services to help growers optimize their use of biochar.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Carbon Gold serves farmers, horticulturists, and landscapers seeking natural and sustainable solutions for soil improvement and plant health. Their biochar products are used in various agricultural and horticultural applications, including organic farming, greenhouse production, turf management, and urban greening.
  • Biochar Now:
    • Technology Enhancement: Biochar Now specializes in biochar production and distribution for soil improvement and carbon sequestration. Their biochar is produced from locally sourced woody biomass using a controlled pyrolysis process. Biochar Now’s products are characterized by their high carbon content, porous structure, and nutrient-rich composition, making them suitable for enhancing soil fertility and mitigating climate change.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Biochar Now stands out for its community-centered approach to biochar production and utilization. They collaborate with local biomass producers, landowners, and environmental organizations to establish sustainable supply chains for biomass feedstock and promote biochar adoption in diverse agricultural and land management practices. Additionally, they offer educational programs and outreach initiatives to raise awareness about the benefits of biochar.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Biochar Now serves farmers, gardeners, land managers, and conservation groups seeking effective and sustainable solutions for soil restoration, carbon sequestration, and climate resilience. Their biochar products are applied in various agricultural, forestry, and land restoration projects to improve soil health, water retention, and nutrient cycling.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University is at the forefront of research on Biochar Production and Utilization, focusing on developing sustainable methods for producing biochar from biomass feedstocks and exploring its diverse applications in agriculture, environmental remediation, and energy production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves optimizing pyrolysis processes, reactor designs, and feedstock compositions to produce high-quality biochar with tailored properties for specific applications. They also investigate biochar’s potential as a soil amendment, carbon sequestration agent, and renewable energy source, exploring its impacts on soil health, nutrient cycling, and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in sustainable agriculture, climate change mitigation, and waste valorization. By advancing biochar production and utilization technologies, Cornell’s research contributes to enhancing soil fertility, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting circular bioeconomies.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: The University of California, Berkeley conducts innovative research on Biochar Production and Utilization, leveraging its expertise in environmental engineering, bioenergy, and sustainable development to address key challenges and opportunities in biomass valorization and carbon management.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of scalable biochar production technologies, biochar characterization methods, and biochar-based materials for environmental applications. They also explore biochar’s potential as a soil amendment, water treatment agent, and energy storage medium, examining its interactions with soil microbes, pollutants, and organic matter.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in soil remediation, water filtration, and renewable energy production. By unlocking the potential of biochar as a multifunctional bio-based material, UC Berkeley’s research supports sustainable land management practices, ecosystem restoration efforts, and climate-resilient agriculture.
  • University of Edinburgh:
    • Research Focus: The University of Edinburgh is engaged in cutting-edge research on Biochar Production and Utilization, leveraging its expertise in bioenergy, environmental science, and materials engineering to develop innovative approaches for valorizing biomass waste streams and mitigating climate change impacts.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring novel pyrolysis technologies, biochar modification techniques, and integrated bioenergy systems to enhance the efficiency, scalability, and sustainability of biochar production processes. They also investigate biochar’s applications in carbon sequestration, soil improvement, and renewable energy generation, evaluating its long-term effects on ecosystem services and global carbon budgets.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in carbon capture and storage, sustainable agriculture, and bio-based product manufacturing. By advancing biochar science and technology, the University of Edinburgh’s research contributes to achieving climate goals, enhancing soil resilience, and promoting resource-efficient bioeconomies.

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.