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Friday, 5 April 2013

Palm frond biochar production and characterisation

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"Palm oil has been the world's main source of oil and fats since 2004, producing over 45 million tonnes in 2009. Malaysia alone has over 4·5 million hectares planted with oil palm and, based on common practice, ∼300 palm fronds are pruned per hectare per year. This agricultural waste is currently either being used as roughage feed or, more frequently, being left between rows of palm trees to prevent soil erosion, or for nutrient recycling purposes. This paper proposes an alternative use for palm frond as a source of biochar. A traditional method commonly use by gardeners in Malaysia to improve soil fertility was used to produce the biochar. A shallow earth pit was dug in the ground for the carbonisation process. The process is described and the impact of carbonisation on the earth wall is analysed and presented. The process was later re-assessed by using TGA-FTIR. Most of the hemicelluloses had fully disintegrated, but the depolymerisation of the cellulose was still incomplete at the carbonisation temperature. Most of the lignin aromatic structure was still present in the biochar. The carbonisation process was repeated in the laboratory and biochar was characterised by using BET, SEM and FTIR. An adsorption isotherm study was conducted and the experimental data were fitted to the Langmuir model. The model predicted Pb2+ adsorption rates of 83·3 mg/g, Cu2+ 41·4 mg/g, Ni2+ 13·0 mg/g and Zn2+ 19·7 mg/g."

A. Md Som, Z. Wang and A. Al-Tabbaa
Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1PZ, UK.

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