Research & Publications

Current Research by IBG Members

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, University of Illinois

Scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center ( on the campus of the University of Illinois are conducting biochar studies which include: (1) production of biochar from a variety of waste biomass and testing its characteristics; (2) use of biochar as a soil amendment for sustainable agriculture; and (3) potential environmental implications associated with biochar use. For more information on ISTC’s biochar research, or if you are interested in exploring biochar production at your facility or establishing collaboration on biochar research, please contact Dr. Wei Zheng ( or Dr. Kishore Rajagopalan ( ).

National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR)

NCAUR is one of the four regional research laboratories in the United States for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official research branch, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Biochar research here has been ongoing for nearly a decade with several targeted applications:

Dr. Steve Peterson has focused mainly on using biochar as a renewable carbon substitute for carbon black filler in rubber composites. With carbon black being sourced from fossil fuels, it is desirable to move towards renewable replacements for this material, especially with its massive market in automobile tires, belts, hoses, and seals. It is through connections in the Illinois Biochar Group that Steve has collaborated quite successfully with Biochar Options, a biochar producer in Wisconsin that excels in high-carbon and low-ash biochar.

Dr. Steve Vaughn, a horticulturalist, has studied biochar as a soil amendment in various applications such as golf greens, high-value horticultural crops, and nurseries. This research has led into studies examining the feasibility of pyrolyzing biosolids from sewage treatment plants as potential soil amendments as well.

Dr. Veera Boddu has been a Research Leader at NCAUR since 2015, after serving for many years as a Senior Scientist with the Environmental Processes Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Champaign, Illinois. Lately his research has been examining avocado pits as biochar feedstock and developing biochar-based media to filter and treat agricultural runoff water contaminated with high levels of pesticides along with nitrate and phosphate fertilizers.

Publications from all three of the above listed ARS scientists can be seen by clicking on their names above, which will take you to their official ARS webpages (scroll down to and expand the ‘Publications’ section).

Chip Energy, Inc.

Paul Wever ( and Dr. Paul Anderson ( of Chip Energy, Inc. continue their work on biochar production and pyrolysis furnaces.

University of Illinois-Chicago

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago are studying the application of biochar in site remediation projects as well as the use of biochar as a filter for stormwater drainage. Dr. Krishna Reddy recently received an NSF grant to continue his work on biochar in covers for landfills. That project is entitled “Sustainable Biocover System for Methane Oxidation in Landfills”. Project duration Is: March 1, 2012 – February 28, 2015 (estimated). Dr. Reddy is the Principal Investigator and Dr.Jean Bogner is Co-Principal Investigator. For more information, contact Dr. Krishna Reddy.

The objective of this research project is to develop a new low-cost, practical, and sustainable soil system amended with biochar to effectively mitigate landfill methane emissions. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest anthropogenic source of methane emissions in the US. There is an urgent need to develop cost-effective innovative cover systems that can mitigate methane emissions from landfills. An integrated research program, consisting of controlled laboratory batch and column experiments, mathematical modeling, and a field demonstration, will be undertaken to investigate: (1) the physical, geochemical and geotechnical properties of biochars and biochar-amended soils; (2) the transport and enhanced adsorption of biochars and biochar-amended cover soils for methane and oxygen; (3) the rates of methane oxidation in biochars and biochar-amended soils; (4) the factors controlling the simultaneous competing or synergistic interactions between adsorption and oxidation of methane under various conditions (biochar properties, soil composition, methane concentrations, moisture contents, and temperatures); (5) the development of a mechanistic model for methane oxidation within biochar and biochar-amended landfill covers; and (6) the performance in a full-scale field demonstration to verify the validity of the research findings and viability of practical application. In addition, a guidance manual will be prepared for the design of biochar and biochar-amended soil cover systems for landfill applications. This project will determine the fundamental mechanisms responsible for stimulation of soil microorganisms in biochar, including the contribution of porous structure and high surface area to gaseous adsorption, moisture retention, and colonization by methanotrophic populations.

This project will result in a creative, low-cost, sustainable biochar and biochar-amended soil cover system to mitigate methane emissions at landfills and protect the environment and public health. Two graduate students will have the opportunity to gain research experience through this project in emerging field of sustainable geo-engineering. Research skills and instrumentation developed for this project will enhance classroom instruction at the undergraduate level, the graduate level, and for K-12 teachers in the “Teachers as Scholars” Program. A teaching module “Engineering with Biochar” will be developed and incorporated into the existing Landfill Engineering and Sustainable Engineering courses. The project results will be widely disseminated by: (1) organizing a workshop for practicing and regulatory professionals, (2) publishing refereed journal/conference papers, and (3) participating in the Illinois and US Biochar Groups.

Summaries & Reviews on Biochar
  • International Biochar Initiative Guidelines for Specifications of Biochars document-October 2011
    The final draft document is now available on the IBI website and is awaiting final comments through November 15, 2011.For further information, and to see earlier drafts of the guidelines, and follow the course of development of the guidelines, please go to
  • Technical, Economical and Climate Related Aspects of Biochar Production Technologies: A Literature Review
    Sebatian Meyer, Bruno Glaser, and Peter Quicker
    Environ. Sci. Technol. 30 Sept. 2011 (web)
  • Biochar: A Critical Review of Science and Policy Interim draft report
    June 10, 2011

  • Biochar Effects on Soil Biota – A Review

    Johannes Lehmann, Matthias C. Rillig, Janice Thies, Caroline A. Masiello, William C. Hockaday, and David Crowley
    Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Article in Press, Corrected Proof.
    DOI: doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.04.022
  • Biochar, climate change and soil: A review to guide future research

    Saran Sohi, Elisa Lopez-Capel, Evelyn Krull and Roland Bol
    Corresponding author and editor: Evelyn Krull
    CSIRO Land and Water Science Report 05/09
  • U.S.-Focused Biochar Report – Assessment of Biochar’s Benefits for
    the United States of America

    Edited by Jonah Levine
    Contributing Authors: Christoph Steiner, PhD, Hugh McLaughlin, PhD,
    PE, Andrew Harley, PhD, Gloria Flora, Ronal Larson, PhD, Adam Reed, JD
    Centennial Publishing, Colorado, USA
  • Biochar for environmental management: science and technology

    Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph
  • Biochar Application to Soils – A Critical Scientific Review of Effects on Soil Properties, Processes, and Functions

    F. Verheijen, S. Jeffery, A.C. Bastos, M. van der Velde, and I. Diafas
    EUR 24099 EN, Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 149pp.
  • A Guide to Conducting Biochar Trials

    Julie Major
    International Biochar Initiative, 32 pp.
  • Guidelines on Practical Aspects of Biochar Application
    Julie Major
    International Biochar Initiative, 23 pp.
  • Potential Mechanisms for Achieving Agricultural benefits
    from Biochar Application to Temperate Soils: a review

    Christopher J. Atkinson, Jean D. Fitzgerald, and Neil A. Hipps
    Plant Soil (2010) 337:1- 18
  • The Role of Biochar in Modifying the Environmental Fate, Bioavailability, and Efficacy of Pesticides in Soils: a review.

    Rai S.Kookana
    Australian Journal of Soil Research
  • Garcia-Perez, M., T. Lewis, and C.E. Kruger. 2010.  Methods for Producing Biochar and Advanced Biofuels in Washington State. Part 1: Literature Review of Pyrolysis Reactors. First project Report. Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and natural Resources, Washington State University, Pullman, WA. 137 pp.
  • Biochar Research Needs and Priorities: International Biochar Initiative – Updated Draft March 2010
Most Recent Publications
  • Hydrologic Properties of Biochars Produced at Different Temperatures
    March 2012
    T.J. Kinney, C.A. Masiello, B. Dugan,W.C. Hockaday, M.R. Dean, K. Zygourakis, R.T. Barnes.
    Biomass and Bioenergy In Press, Corrected Proof available online March 20, 2012.
    DOI: .
Other Research/Publications