Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


2.3 MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, 2.7 ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING, Energy and fuels, Environmental biotechnology

Publication Details

Chemosphere Volume 207, September 2018, Pages 91-100


This study assessed the properties and toxicity (water cress germination trials) of 38 waste-derived, novel biochar-mineral composites (BMCs) produced via slow pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonization (hydrochars). The biochars were produced from sewage sludge and compost-like output (CLO) by varying the type of mineral additive (zeolite, wood ash and lignite fly ash), the mineral-to-feedstock ratio and the carbonization process. While pure hydrochars completely inhibited germination of water cress, this effect was ameliorated by mineral additives. Seedlings grew best in pyrolysis chars and while wood ash addition decreased plant growth in many cases, 1:10 addition to CLO doubled germination rate. The factors responsible for the phytotoxicity can be attributed to pH, salinity and organic contaminants. Importantly, while pure minerals inhibited germination, conversion of minerals into BMCs reduced their inhibitory effects due to buffered release of minerals. Overall, mineral wastes (e.g., combustion ashes) and waste biomass can be used safely as sources of nutrients and stable organic carbon (for soil carbon sequestration) when converted into specific biochar-mineral composites, exploiting synergies between the constituents to deliver superior performance. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd