Direct Air CO2 Capture with Biochar

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Direct Air Capture with Biochar (DAC-Biochar) is a negative emissions technology that integrates Direct Air Capture (DAC) systems with the production and application of biochar. This innovative approach involves capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere using DAC technology and then converting the captured CO2 into biochar, a stable, charcoal-like material, through a process called pyrolysis. This biochar is then incorporated into soil, offering a range of agricultural benefits while permanently sequestering carbon.

Impact on climate action

Direct Air Capture with Biochar combines carbon removal technology with biochar production, yielding a dual benefit: capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere and creating a stable carbon sink in the form of biochar. This innovation enhances climate action efforts by actively reducing greenhouse gas levels while promoting soil health and carbon sequestration.


DAC-Biochar leverages a combination of technologies and scientific principles:

  • Direct Air Capture (DAC): Various DAC technologies, such as solid sorbent or liquid solvent capture, are employed to extract CO2 directly from the ambient air.
  • Pyrolysis: This thermochemical process involves heating biomass in the absence of oxygen, converting it into biochar, bio-oil, and syngas.
  • Biochar Properties and Benefits: Biochar is a highly porous, carbon-rich material that is resistant to decomposition. When added to soil, it improves soil fertility, water retention, nutrient cycling, and microbial activity.
  • Carbon Sequestration: The carbon in biochar is highly stable and can remain sequestered in the soil for centuries to millennia, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

TRL : 4-6 (While DAC and biochar technologies individually are more mature, the integrated DAC-Biochar approach is still in the development and demonstration phase).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Mobile DAC-Biochar Units: Developing mobile units that can be deployed directly on farms or forestry sites to capture CO2 and produce biochar locally, reducing transportation costs and promoting decentralized carbon removal.
  • Waste Biomass Utilization: Utilizing waste biomass, such as agricultural residues or forestry waste, as the feedstock for biochar production can create a circular economy approach and reduce reliance on dedicated energy crops.
  • Biochar Tailoring: Modifying biochar properties through different pyrolysis conditions or post-treatment methods can enhance its specific benefits for different soil types and crop requirements.
  • Biochar-Based Soil Amendments: Combining biochar with other soil amendments, such as compost or biofertilizers, can create synergistic effects and further enhance soil health and crop yields.
  • Carbon Credit Market Integration: Developing methodologies to quantify and verify the carbon sequestration benefits of DAC-Biochar can enable the participation of farmers and landowners in carbon credit markets, creating financial incentives for adoption.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Integrated Carbon Capture and Soil Enhancement
  • Mobile Direct Air Capture Units
  • Tailored Biochar Production Techniques
  • Biochar-Based Circular Economy Solutions
  • Synergistic Soil Amendment Strategies
  • Carbon Sequestration through Soil Enhancement
  • Decentralized Carbon Removal Technologies
  • Carbon-Negative Agriculture Innovations
  • Climate-Smart Farming Practices
  • Biomass-to-Biochar Conversion Processes
  • Localized Carbon Removal Solutions
  • Biochar as a Soil Health Enhancer
  • Carbon Capture for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Precision Carbon Sequestration Techniques
  • Soil Carbon Enrichment Technologies

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Carbon Engineering:
    • Technology Focus: Carbon Engineering specializes in Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, which involves extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. They likely integrate biochar, a type of charcoal produced from biomass, into their process to enhance carbon sequestration and soil fertility.
    • Uniqueness: Their unique approach combines DAC with biochar production, offering a dual benefit of carbon removal and soil enhancement. This integrated solution could provide a more sustainable and scalable method for carbon capture and storage.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are likely targeted towards industries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and offset emissions, such as energy production, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. Additionally, they may appeal to organizations and governments aiming to meet climate targets and promote environmental stewardship.
  • Charm Industrial:
    • Technology Focus: Charm Industrial is likely focused on developing and implementing biochar production processes, particularly in conjunction with carbon capture technologies like DAC. Their goal is to sequester carbon from the atmosphere while producing biochar for soil enhancement.
    • Uniqueness: Charm Industrial stands out for its specialized expertise in biochar production and its integration with carbon capture processes. Their approach may involve innovative techniques for biomass conversion and biochar optimization.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could target industries seeking sustainable carbon sequestration methods, such as agriculture, forestry, waste management, and carbon offset markets. They may also collaborate with DAC technology providers and climate-focused organizations to deploy integrated carbon removal solutions.
  • Pachama:
    • Technology Focus: Pachama is likely focused on developing carbon offset projects, including reforestation and afforestation initiatives. They may incorporate biochar as a soil amendment to enhance carbon sequestration and ecosystem restoration efforts.
    • Uniqueness: Pachama’s unique approach combines remote sensing, machine learning, and blockchain technology to verify and monitor carbon offset projects. Their platform provides transparency and accountability, ensuring the credibility of carbon credits generated.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to companies and individuals looking to offset their carbon emissions and support nature-based solutions for climate mitigation. They may also partner with organizations involved in reforestation, conservation, and sustainable land management initiatives worldwide.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Cornell University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Cornell researchers are pioneering the integration of direct air capture (DAC) technology with biochar production processes. This involves capturing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere using specialized sorbents and then converting it into stable biochar through pyrolysis or similar processes.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Cornell’s approach stands out for its holistic utilization of biomass feedstocks for both carbon capture and biochar production. By coupling DAC with biochar production, the research aims to create a closed-loop carbon management system that not only removes CO2 from the atmosphere but also produces a valuable carbon-negative material.
    • End-use Applications: The biochar produced through this process can find applications in soil amendment, carbon sequestration, and renewable energy production. Additionally, the captured CO2 can be stored underground or utilized in industrial processes, contributing to climate change mitigation efforts.
  • ETH Zurich:
    • Technology Enhancements: ETH Zurich researchers are advancing the efficiency and scalability of direct air capture systems by optimizing the design of sorbent materials and reactor configurations. They are exploring novel materials and engineering solutions to enhance CO2 capture rates and reduce energy consumption.
    • Uniqueness of Research: ETH Zurich’s research focuses on integrating biochar production into the DAC process as a means of utilizing captured CO2 and producing a valuable carbon-negative product. Their approach emphasizes the development of sustainable and cost-effective carbon capture technologies with practical applications in various sectors.
    • End-use Applications: The biochar produced through this process can be utilized in agriculture, forestry, and environmental remediation projects to enhance soil fertility, sequester carbon, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The captured CO2 can be stored or utilized in industrial processes, contributing to the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: UC Berkeley researchers are exploring innovative approaches to direct air capture using biochar as a sorbent material. They are investigating the optimization of biochar properties and process conditions to enhance CO2 capture efficiency and durability.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in materials science, chemical engineering, and environmental science to develop scalable and sustainable direct air capture technologies. Their focus on biochar as a versatile and cost-effective sorbent material offers new opportunities for carbon capture and utilization.
    • End-use Applications: The biochar produced through this process can be used in various applications, including soil amendment, water treatment, and carbon sequestration. Additionally, the captured CO2 can be stored underground or utilized in industrial processes, contributing to climate change mitigation efforts and the development of a circular carbon economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Large-scale commercial implementation of DAC-Biochar is still in its early stages, with ongoing pilot projects and demonstrations. However, the increasing interest in negative emissions technologies and the growing recognition of biochar’s agricultural benefits are driving its development towards commercial viability.