Biocharable - A Much Needed Word

Daniel Bechtoldt
A pile of various lumber scraps with the word "BIOCHARABLE" overlaid in bold white text.

Pictured above: Biocharable lumber scraps. 

Updated on: June-19-2024 

Biocharable - A Much Needed Word

There are words like compostable and recyclable, but something is missing. What about biocharable? The word "biocharable" is missing from the English language. 

We need this word! I will take the initiative to define it here, in the manner of a lexicographer.

Definition:

Biocharable materials are biomass materials suitable for conversion into biochar using simple, home-based methods. They must be sized right, have a moisture content less than 50% wet-basis, and be free of contaminants. 

Characteristics of biocharable materials:

A cardboard box with bold black text "BIOCHARABLE" printed on it sits on a weathered wooden picnic table. Lush greenery out of focus behind the table, providing a natural backdrop.
Cardboard that is free of plastic is biocharable. 
  • Suitable biomass size: The material should be small enough to fit within the kiln and must have a small enough thickness to convert to biochar during the planned run time. 
  • Moisture content less than 50% wet basis: The material should have a moisture content of no more than 50% wet basis. To get the fire going significantly lower moisture content (~20% wet-basis) is needed to develop a hot coal bed. 
  • Contamination Free: Free of materials containing plastics, metals, or other non-combustible substances that could produce hazardous byproducts or be left over in the biochar after quenching. 

Examples of biocharable materials:

Close up of dried corn stalks standing in a garden, their golden hues contrasting with the vibrant green background.
Dried corn stalks are biocharable. 
  • Biomass you grow in your garden: Dried leaves, branches, and plant stocks, such as corn stalks
  • Leftover construction materials: Lumber scraps (excluding treated wood), wood shavings, sawdust
  • Paper products: Cardboard and other plastic-free paper products, including paper that cannot be recycled due to food contact

Examples of materials that are not biocharable:

A rotten tomato with a red "no" symbol overlaid on top, still attached to its vine in a garden. Other tomato vines are visible in the blurred background.
A rotten tomato is not biocharable due to its high moisture content.
  • Non-biomass synthetic materials: Any material that is not derived from plant sources, such as plastics, metals, or minerals, are not biocharable.
  • Fruits or vegetables: Undried fruits and vegetables have a high moisture content and cannot be added to a hot coal bed in significant quantities to make a meaningful amount of biochar, making them impractical for biochar production.
  • Contaminated biomass: Biomass materials that have been treated with chemicals or coated with plastic, such as treated wood or paper, are not suitable for biochar production. The contaminants could contaminate the biochar or release toxic gases when burned.

Make Your Own Biochar!

Did you know you can make biochar while enjoying a backyard fire pit? Here at Pi Fabricators, we're passionate about helping gardeners create amazing biochar enriched soil. That's why we created an innovative and stylish biochar fire pit. Enjoy relaxing evenings by the fire, and harvest biochar to enrich your garden! Who knew backyard fire pits could be so productive?

Click here to learn more about the Pi Biochar Fire Pit.

 

About the author

Hi, I'm Daniel Bechtoldt, a mechanical engineer. I'm passionate about using biochar to improve soil health and maximize harvests. When I'm not spending time with my family or finding solace in nature, I'm developing innovative biochar and tool storage solutions for people like you.



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