Definition of key terms used across the website

Shortcode including the list of terms:

  • Biochar

    A solid residue obtained from the pyrolysis of biomass, with intended use for carbon sequestration.

    The definition of biochar has several acceptations. Some do not include the carbon sequestration in the definition.

    Carbonised biomass; charcoal, activated carbon, biocoal and biochar can all be described as a solid carbon-rich residue that remain from the heating of biomass in partial or complete absence of oxygen.

    • Charcoal refers to a traditional fuel produced from woody biomass, and still widely used.
    • Activated carbons, instead, can be derived from any biomass or even fossil coal via further activation treatments, and are mainly used for filtering or sorption applications.
    • Biochar, the newest term, was initially differentiated from charcoal stressing the fact that biochar is intended for amendment to agricultural soils and carbon sequestration.

    With the expansion of the biochar research field, the definition of biochar is however no longer limited to soil applications. In some acceptations, the definition even includes biochar use for energy – sometimes called biocoal – in industrial processes or products that may be later incinerated such as activated biochar filters or electronic components.

    Finally, existing voluntary certificates of biochar include in their definitions specific requirements on production conditions and quality e.g. approved biomass types, minimum carbon content, treatment temperature, or pollutant contents.

    All these materials have different properties. Usually, charcoal is produced in a way that maximises its yield (around 35% of the initial biomass weight), and charcoal has a lower carbon content and a higher hydrogen content than biochar produced at higher temperatures (and with a lower yield).

  • GIS

    Geographic information system (GIS) refers to computerised tools and databases for analysing spatial data. It also refers to a field of research.

  • LCA

    Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a research methodology to analyse the potential environmental impacts arising from a product or system throughout its life cycle.

  • MFA

    Material flow analysis (MFA) is a research methodology to analyse the flows and stocks of materials in a given system. MFA is often extended to include energy flows. It can also be applied to specific substances.