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NextChar Characterization Matrix - Measuring biochar properties to establish Valuation

Hugh McLaughlin
NextChar, LLC
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Abstract: 

Biochar is maturing as both a concept and market. In order to continue to grow, the historic mandate for a biochar characterization system needs to be filled ASAP. While IBI has promoted their leadership in this area since 2009, resulting in the current IBI Certification Program and the associated IBI Biochar Standards, the current offerings are not proving popular nor effective in the marketplace. The current IBI approach seems devoid of measures establishing positive “value” of a given biochar and more focused on “proving the absence of contaminants” and lumping biochars into broad classes that mask relevant differences between commercially available products. This talk describes a set of simple, affordable, and routinely accessible tests that will provide a set of differentiating metrics that characterize a given biochar and will serve as the starting point for comparison and valuation of biochars. For many high quality biochars, this set of metrics may be all that is needed to identify appropriate uses. For biochars that have one or more lower metrics, the tests will highlight which aspects of the biochar command additional consideration prior to utilization as a soil amendment or remediation treatment. It is proposed that reporting this set of test metrics will serve as a requirement for laying claim that a material is “biochar”; lower quality biochars will be reflected in correspondingly lower metrics, but there will not be any required property thresholds. The testing matrix and the associated biochar metrics are intended for testing raw unmodified biochar. The baseline characterization of any biochar consists of low-cost tests that will partition the biochar into water, ash, mobile matter and resident matter. The tests will be summarized and the merit of each measurement discussed. Application of the methodology to currently available commercial biochars is presented in another talk.

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