|photo credit: Robert S. Donovan|
Most of you, my dear readers, have heard of charring or charcoal at some point (a few might even know the term “Charyou Tree” from the novels of Stephen King). So you may be asking yourselves what is biochar? Is it different from normal charcoal? Why are people putting it in the ground and not using it for bar-b-q?
Biochar is organic material, mostly wood, that has been heated until it has been completely carbonized. How is this different from charcoal? It differs in its primary use. When people think of and use charcoal in America, it’s mainly for burning the charcoal. Biochar’s main uses are as a carbon sequester and a fertilizer. What that means is that when wood is turned into charcoal (or biochar) the carbon it holds is not released into the atmosphere. Instead you end up with a little lump of carbon (not like this, but like this). It turns out that lump of carbon can be used as a very effective fertilizer.
Now why do I bring all this up? It’s not only to talk a little about carbon sequestration or to talk about a hobby of mine, but to talk about up and coming science.
Why is this important? First it is a way to improve soil quality without adding too many artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Second, it is a way to store the carbon without releasing it immediately into the atmosphere.
Using charcoal as fertilizer is not a new invention. The idea and practice has been around for thousands of years. One example of it has been slash and burn agriculture.
So what is a carbon fiber nanotube? It is a string of carbon molecules that have been put together that are about 1 nanometer in diameter.
|photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³|
These smallest of the small have big potential. A long carbon string made using these carbon nanofibers (and buckyballs) have the potential to help revolutionize fields such as electronics and building materials.
Carbon nanofibers have the strongest tensile strength (how well the material stands up to stress) and can also hold an electrical current 1,000 times greater than the copper wires we use.
So, why aren’t we already using it? That’s the really amazing thing. The technology is so cutting (and bleeding) edge that the implementation is not there yet.
And there are greater things yet to come. “Oh brave new world that has such people in it.”