Phosphorus-assisted biomass thermal conversion: Reducing carbon loss and improving biochar stability

Ling Zhao, Xinde Cao, Wei Zheng, Yue Kan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is often over 50% carbon loss during the thermal conversion of biomass into biochar, leading to it controversy for the biochar formation as a carbon sequestration strategy. Sometimes the biochar also seems not to be stable enough due to physical, chemical, and biological reactions in soils. In this study, three phosphorus-bearing materials, H3PO4, phosphate rock tailing (PRT), and triple superphosphate (TSP), were used as additives to wheat straw with a ratio of 1: 0.4- 0.8 for biochar production at 500°C, aiming to alleviate carbon loss during pyrolysis and to increase biochar-C stabilization. All these additives remarkably increased the biochar yield from 31.7% (unmodified biochar) to 46.9%-56.9% (modified biochars). Carbon loss during pyrolysis was reduced from 51.7% to 35.5%-47.7%. Thermogravimetric analysis curves showed that the additives had no effect on thermal stability of biochar but did enhance its oxidative stability. Microbial mineralization was obviously reduced in the modified biochar, especially in the TSP-BC, in which the total CO2 emission during 60-d incubation was reduced by 67.8%, compared to the unmodified biochar. Enhancement of carbon retention and biochar stability was probably due to the formation of meta-phosphate or C-O-PO3, which could either form a physical layer to hinder the contact of C with O2 and bacteria, or occupy the active sites of the C band. Our results indicate that pretreating biomass with phosphors-bearing materials is effective for reducing carbon loss during pyrolysis and for increasing biochar stabilization, which provides a novel method by which biochar can be designed to improve the carbon sequestration capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere115373
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 22 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Phosphorus-assisted biomass thermal conversion: Reducing carbon loss and improving biochar stability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this