Its high carbon content and porous nature can help soil retain water, nutrients, protect soil microbes and ultimately increase crop yields while acting as natural carbon sink - sequestering CO2 and locking it into the ground.I'm particularly excited about biochar because it's a focus of my research. We're in the process of looking at how biochar effects microbial communities (density, diversity, specific populations, etc). One thing to consider is that most biochars (there are multiple ways to make biochar and change it's physical properties) have a negative charge, and as such will act as a chelator and "mop up" cations (positively charged ions). While this will be a good thing from a remediation standpoint, if there are normal levels of say copper in the soil, this can reduce them to the point where it may detrimentally effect microbial populations. So we're in the process of looking into it.
The second is on carbon capture.
To find out exactly how the carbon dioxide is stored in natural gas fields, an international team of researchers - led by the University of Manchester - uniquely combined two specialised techniques. They measured the ratios of the stable isotopes of carbon dioxide and noble gases like helium and neon in nine gas fields in North America, China and Europe. These gas fields were naturally filled with carbon dioxide thousands or millions of years ago.So what does this mean?
They found that underground water is the major carbon dioxide sink in these gas fields and has been for millions of years.
Professor Chris Ballentine of the University of Manchester, the project director, said: "The universities of Manchester and Toronto are international leaders in different aspects of gas tracing. By combining our expertise we have been able to invent a new way of looking at carbon dioxide fields. This new approach will also be essential for monitoring and tracing where carbon dioxide captured from coal-fired power stations goes when we inject it underground – this is critical for future safety verification."IOW, the carbon dioxide that we capture in this manner may truly sit there for millions of years, and we can now feel relatively certain about it.