The terms biomass and Biochar can be confusing, so here’s a quick guide:
Biomass—organic waste used as fuel—is composed of any living, or recently, living matter. ART uses biomass primarily from human waste, animal waste, agricultural and forest waste, among other sources.
Biochar, a byproduct of the thermal conversion of biomass, is a modern term for an ancient product.
Char, an older term than Biochar, has traditionally been used to describe a substance that has been scorched or burned and then reduced to carbon.
Biochar is currently used to describe char that is made from biomass:
For example, charcoal is made from the biomass known as wood and can thus be defined as Biochar. Along with charcoal, the term Biochar describes a wide variety of other products derived from the burning of biomass, including those known as carbon, lamp black, gas black, fusain, and cinder.
Today, the terms Biochar and char are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences. Char can be derived from both toxic and nontoxic feedstocks, and the technology to produce it can involve some degree of pollution. In contrast, Biochar produced through ART’s thermochemical conversion of biomass is generated from nontoxic, organic feedstocks, through the use of nonpolluting technology.
Biochar typically resembles the biomass from which it is made, but is always black. In addition, its chemical properties are fundamentally different from the biomass from which it is made: Biochar is sterile (not a biohazard), has no smell, and is stable (does not decay/decompose).