I’m a small gardener with 13 or so 4x8 foot raised beds I use for organic vegetables. With the recent developments around biochar I thought: I wonder if a person could go around to petco and other hobby fish stores and get their used activated charcoal and put it in the garden. Kinda like harvesting coffee grounds from Starbuck. The used activated charcoal would already be inoculated too.
Act charcoal is made at higher temperatures and is very high in surface area.
I believe biochar made at much lower temperatures is more optimised in terms of micro-channels and structure for agricultural purposes.
But charged act char is still probably a useful soil amendment, depending on how much cleaning chemicals end up locked into it.
Examine your lifestyle, multiply it by 7.7 billion other ego-monkeys with similar desires and query whether that global impact is conscionable.
Activated charcoal should have a lot more internal surface area, but I'm fairly sure that it doesn't have all the nice graphene oxide functionalities or the balance of electron receivers and electron donors found in biochar, which are important to soil bacterial metabolic interactions with the biochar. As Jondo said....probably still nicely beneficial, but not with all the same benefits of biochar.
I'm a mechanical engineering student developing a charcoal retort kiln product and would love to hear feedback from everyone! Responses are anonymous and are super helpful in development. Thanks! Follow this link for the short survey...
or just any feedback on what makes a charcoal kiln desirable would help in development.
Hi Boris, just finished your survey, thanks. I wanted to add that controlling temperature to the 450-550C range is very important. I also think something about cost of the retort might be worth adding. Have you looked into cone kilns and their equivalent, the earth pit? I'm just curious if a closed kiln can make a similar final product, as the oxidation state of the charcoal is also very important to the soil function of the biochar. It would be very interesting to see measures of ammonia absorption as well as of redox values (both electron receiver and donor densities) for closed kiln systems vs. open cone systems, at say 1 week and 1 year after production.
From my understanding Activated Charcoal is first biochar, that then once to appropriate particulate size, goes through a chemical treatment which changes the carbons structure on a molecular level and or the charge of the carbons newly formed molecules on a molecular level, making it more reactive or attracted with the opposite charges from various subatomic imbalances in elemental or molecular makeup of what comes into contact with the activated carbon. So basically the process of activation, drastically increases the carbon/biochars ability to act as a subatominc magnatized sponge which then better targets the attraction and absorption of certian materials based on their subatomic charge. Not sure I explained that exactly right, but it covers the gist for laymans interpretation. The chemical salt solution used for activation is then rinsed off, and your activated charcoal is dried out for storage or use. If I'm not mistaken it's treated with some form of chloride solution, at a given ratio, for a given duration of time to create the molecular or elemental interactions with the carbon, forming the molecular mechanisms that acts to activate the charcoal.
The goal of making biochar is to burn off all the chemicals of the plants so you are left with almost exclusively carbon (charcoal). The goal is different than making charcoal for a barbeque. I don't think they are focussed on removing the other chemicals-they just want to get it to where it will burn well for a long time. Biochar is best when it has nothing left to burn.
Then you typically crush it to increase surface area. I put mine between two panels of plywood and every time I drive, I go over it. I know. Pretty blue collar, huh? Then I put it in 5 gallon buckets and pour nutrition through it. Typically I use a mixture of regular compost, worm "casting" compost, maybe some old rotten fruit, maybe old rotten wood or mycelium and urea. I took Redhawk's advice to not just soak it. It makes sense because you want to select for aerobic microbes. You are making hotels for them.