Gasification is incomplete combustion of solid fuel that results in the production of vapor, often referred to as syngas or producer gas, char, and tar. When this process is applied to biomass, the resulting char, referred to as biochar, is produced and has been shown to enhance soil fertility and crop growth. As part of a broader effort, this work examines how the gasification process impacts the biochar generated through downdraft gasification. In contrast to previous publications, which only focused on the syngas compositions, this research paper expands the analysis to the composition of the biochar produced in the gasification systems.
In a large-scale gasifier, corn grains at about a 15% moisture level are inserted into a pilot scale downdraft gasifier from the top. In this system, both air and fuel move in the same direction. The air entering the setup is controlled using a damper. Corn grains entering the gasifier pass through a drying zone where the moisture content in it is removed. The dry corn then passes through a combustion and pyrolysis zone, followed by a reduction zone. The high temperature present at the bottom in the reduction zone cracks any tar present in the syngas produced. This syngas exits from the bottom of the gasifier. The char produced has a residence time from half an hour to several hours. About 20% of the fuel that’s inserted in the gasifier is converted to biochar.
An ultimate and proximate chemical composition analysis, BET porosity analysis, and an SEM image analysis were carried out on the biochar produced from this system. From the SEM analysis, a surface area of 2.38 m2/g was obtained. From the ultimate and proximate analysis, it was observed that the biochar had higher carbon content and a lack of volatile components compared to other reported biochars and levels similar to activated carbon. From the BET porosity analysis, both small scale and large-scale pores were observed but quantified comparison with other biochar is still on going. Porosity is known to be an important factor in biochar effectiveness as a soil amendment.