The biochar reactor built by the American University of Sharjah’s College of Engineering as part a two-year project. Image Credit: Courtesy: AUS

Sharjah: Researchers from the American University of Sharjah’s (AUS) College of Engineering have embarked on a two-year research project to investigate the conversion of commonly available organic wastes (such as food and agricultural wastes) into biochar.

Biochar is a highly stable form of carbon that does not contribute to the greenhouse effect and is used worldwide to improve soil properties for plant growth. It can be produced from nearly any organic material.

The AUS team will determine how to use many different organic materials to create designer biochar that has high water and nutrient-holding capacities.

The AUS biochar project, to which Dh630,000 has been allocated, is the “first project that comprehensively investigates” the conversion of many different organic waste materials available in the UAE into useful biochar.

The project contributes directly to the UAE’s 2021 vision of minimising the amount of waste material going to landfills, while building expertise in green technology solutions for the country.

The AUS lead investigator, Dr Yassir Makkawi, associate professor of Chemical Engineering, said: “This research project comes at an exciting time, where AUS is experiencing a huge expansion in research activities, including novel concepts on waste minimisation through thermochemical conversion. We have already started looking at the potential of date palm waste for biofuels, and now we can expand this further to explore other waste streams for biochar production.”

The project is funded by Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), the world’s third largest producer of aluminium, which intends to utilise biochar in the manufacture of soil from bauxite residue.