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Curriculum Vitae

Biography

Alice Budai studied chemistry and agroecology before completing a PhD in soil science at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 2017.  During her PhD, she investigated the effect of pyrolysis temperature on biochar properties, with a special focus on its stability in soil.  Her work focused on the use of biochar as a soil amendment material, and now she is investigating the effect of biochar on processes such as composting.  Her areas of expertise include stable isotope methods, gas measurements during incubation, carbon stability, biochar chemical structure, and soil quality indicators.

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Abstract

Infrared and 13C solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies and benzene polycarboxylic acids (BPCA) analysis were used to characterize the structural changes occurring during slow pyrolysis of corncob and Miscanthus at different temperatures from 235 °C to 800 °C. In the case of corncob, a char sample obtained from flash carbonization was also investigated. Spectroscopic techniques gave detailed information on the transformations of the different biomass components, whereas BPCA analysis allowed the amount of aromatic structures present in the different chars and the degree of aromatic condensation to be determined. The results showed that above 500 °C both corncob and Miscanthus give polyaromatic solid residues with similar degree of aromatic condensation but with differences in the structure. On the other hand, at lower temperatures, char composition was observed to depend on the different cellulose/hemicellulose/lignin ratios in the feedstocks. Flash carbonization was found to mainly affect the degree of aromatic condensation.

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Abstract

Evaluating biochars for their persistence in soil under field conditions is an important step towards their implementation for carbon sequestration. Current evaluations might be biased because the vast majority of studies are short-term laboratory incubations of biochars produced in laboratory-scale pyrolyzers. Here our objective was to investigate the stability of a biochar produced with a medium-scale pyrolyzer, first through laboratory characterization and stability tests and then through field experiment. We also aimed at relating properties of this medium-scale biochar to that of a laboratory-made biochar with the same feedstock. Biochars were made of Miscanthus biomass for isotopic C-tracing purposes and produced at temperatures between 600 and 700°C. The aromaticity and degree of condensation of aromatic rings of the medium-scale biochar was high, as was its resistance to chemical oxidation. In a 90-day laboratory incubation, cumulative mineralization was 0.1% for the medium-scale biochar vs. 45% for the Miscanthus feedstock, pointing to the absence of labile C pool in the biochar. These stability results were very close to those obtained for biochar produced at laboratory-scale, suggesting that upscaling from laboratory to medium-scale pyrolyzers had little effect on biochar stability. In the field, the medium-scale biochar applied at up to 25 t C ha-1 decomposed at an estimated 0.8% per year. In conclusion, our biochar scored high on stability indices in the laboratory and displayed a mean residence time > 100 years in the field, which is the threshold for permanent removal in C sequestration projects.

To document

Abstract

Key priorities in biochar research for future guidance of sustainable policy development have been identified by expert assessment within the COST Action TD1107. The current level of scientific understanding (LOSU) regarding the consequences of biochar application to soil were explored. Five broad thematic areas of biochar research were addressed: soil biodiversity and ecotoxicology, soil organic matter and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, soil physical properties, nutrient cycles and crop production, and soil remediation. The highest future research priorities regarding biochar’s effects in soils were: functional redundancy within soil microbial communities, bioavailability of biochar’s contaminants to soil biota, soil organic matter stability, GHG emissions, soil formation, soil hydrology, nutrient cycling due to microbial priming as well as altered rhizosphere ecology, and soil pH buffering capacity. Methodological and other constraints to achieve the required LOSU are discussed and options for efficient progress of biochar research and sustainable application to soil are presented.

To document

Abstract

Biochar is a carbon-rich solid product obtained by pyrolysis of biomass. Here, we investigated multiple biochars produced under slow pyrolysis (235–800 °C), flash carbonization, and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC), using Scanning Electron Microscope—Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) in order to determine whether SEM-EDX can be used as a proxy to characterize biochars effectively. Morphological analysis showed that feedstock has an integrated structure compared to biochar; more pores were generated, and the size became smaller when the temperature increased. Maximum carbon content (max. C) and average carbon content (avg. C) obtained from SEM-EDX exhibited a positive relationship with pyrolysis temperature, with max. C correlating most closely with dry combustion total carbon content. The SEM-EDX O/C ratios displayed a consistent response with the highest treatment temperature (HTT). The study suggests that SEM-EDX produces highly consistent C, oxygen (O), and C/O ratios that deserve further investigation as an operational tool for characterization of biochar products.

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Abstract

Liming of acidic soils has been suggested as a strategy to enhance N2O reduction to N2 during heterotrophic denitrification, and mitigate N2O emission from N fertilised soils. However, the mechanisms involved and possible interactions of key soil parameters (NO3− and O2) still need to be clarified. To explore to what extent soil pH controls N2O emissions and the associated N2O/(N2O + N2) product ratio in an acidic sandy soil, we set-up three sequential incubation experiments using an unlimed control (pH 4.1) and a limed soil (pH 6.9) collected from a 50-year liming experiment. Interactions between different NO3− concentrations, N forms (ammonium- and nitrate) and oxygen levels (oxic and anoxic) on the liming effect of N2O emission and reduction were tested in these two sandy soils via direct N2 and N2O measurements. Our results showed 50-year liming caused a significant increase in denitrification and soil respiration rate of the acidic sandy soil. High concentrations of NO3− in soil (>10 mM N in soil solution, equivalent to 44.9 mg N kg−1 soil) almost completely inhibited N2O reduction to N2 (>90%) regardless of the soil pH value. With decreasing NO3− application rate, N2O reduction rate increased in both soils with the effect being more pronounced in the limed soil. Complete N2O reduction to N2 in the low pH sandy soil was also observed when soil NO3− concentration decreased below 0.2 mM NO3−. Furthermore, liming evidently increased both N2O emissions and the N2O/(N2+N2O) product ratio under oxic conditions when supplied with ammonium-based fertiliser, possibly due to the coupled impact of stimulated nitrification and denitrification. Overall, our data suggest that long-term liming has the potential to both increase and decrease N2O emissions, depending on the soil NO3− level, with high soil NO3− levels overriding the assumed direct pH effect on N2O/(N2+N2O) product ratio.

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Abstract

Biochar has been shown to reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soils, but the effect is highly variable across studies and the mechanisms are under debate. To improve our mechanistic understanding of biochar effects on N2O emission, we monitored kinetics of NO, N2O and N2 accumulation in anoxic slurries of a peat and a mineral soil, spiked with nitrate and amended with feedstock dried at 105 °C and biochar produced at 372, 416, 562 and 796 °C at five different doses. Both soils accumulated consistently less N2O and NO in the presence of high-temperature chars (BC562 and BC796), which stimulated reduction of denitrification intermediates to N2, particularly in the acid peat. This effect appeared to be strongly linked to the degree of biochar carbonisation as predicted by the H:C ratio of the char. In addition, biochar surface area and pH were identified as important factors, whereas ash content and CEC played a minor role. At low pyrolysis temperature, the biochar effect was soil dependent, suppressing N2O accumulation in the mineral soil, but enhancing it in the peat soil. This contrast was likely due to the labile carbon content of low temperature chars, which contributed to immobilise N in the mineral soil, but stimulated denitrification and N2O emission in the peat soil. We conclude that biochar with a high degree of carbonisation, high pH and high surface area is best suited to supress N2O emission from denitrification, while low temperature chars risk supporting incomplete denitrification.

Abstract

Biochar is a carbon-rich material that, due to its inherent resistance to decomposition, is primarily developed with the aim of sequestering carbon in soil. Despite the convincing benefits of biochar as a climate mitigation solution, it has not yet advanced much beyond the research stage, notably because its effect on yield are too modest. Therefore, there is a need for win-win biochar solutions benefiting both food production and climate mitigation. Such a solution is the development of biochar fertilizers, which capitalizes on the capacity of biochar to capture and release nutrients. This effect is largely attributed to the porous structure and large surface area of biochar, with surface charges and ash content also appearing to play a role. The nutrient-retaining capacity of biochar appears to vary among studies investigating different types of biochar exposed to different types of nutrients (mineral anions and cations, organic molecules) under different conditions. In the present study, we will report on a meta-analysis of published biochar properties that are associated with controlling the sorption of nutrients. As biochar properties largely depend on pyrolysis conditions and feedstock properties, this work contributes to the selective design of biochars for the purpose of improving nutrient use efficiency.

Abstract

Norway is strongly committed to the Paris Climate Agreement with an ambitious goal of 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2030. The land sector, including agriculture and forestry, must critically contribute to this national target. Beyond emission reduction, the land sector has the unique capacity to actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere through biological carbon storage in biomass and in soils. Soils are the largest reservoir of terrestrial carbon, and relatively small changes in soil carbon content can have an amplified mitigation effect on the Earth’s climate. Therefore, improved management of soils for carbon storage is receiving a lot of attention, for example through international political initiatives such as the “4-permill” initiative. However, in Norway, many mitigation measures targeting soil carbon might negatively impact food production and economic activity. For example, soil carbon storage can be increased by shifting from cereal crop production to grasslands, but Norway already has abundant grassland and a comparatively small area dedicated to cereals. Another such issue is cultivation on drained peatland, where food is produced at the expense of large losses of soil carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere. Therefore, there is a need to look for win-win solutions for soil carbon storage, which benefit both food production and climate mitigation. Large-scale conversion of agricultural and forest waste biomass to biochar is such an option, and is considered the activity with the largest potential for soil carbon sequestration in Norway. Biochar has been demonstrated to have a mean residence time exceeding 100 years in Norwegian field conditions (Rasse et al, 2017), and no negative effects on plant and soils has been observed. However, despite the convincing benefits of biochar as a climate mitigation solution, it has not yet advanced much beyond the research stage, notably because its effect on yield are too modest. Here, we will first present the comparative advantage of biochar technology as compared to traditional agronomy methods for large-scale C storage in Norwegian agricultural soils. We will further discuss the need for developing innovations in pyrolysis and nutrient-rich waste recycling leading to biochar-fertilizer products as win-win solution for carbon storage and food production.

To document

Abstract

Infrared and 13C solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies and benzene polycarboxylic acids (BPCA) analysis were used to characterize the structural changes occurring during slow pyrolysis of corncob and Miscanthus at different temperatures from 235 °C to 800 °C. In the case of corncob, a char sample obtained from flash carbonization was also investigated. Spectroscopic techniques gave detailed information on the transformations of the different biomass components, whereas BPCA analysis allowed the amount of aromatic structures present in the different chars and the degree of aromatic condensation to be determined. The results showed that above 500 °C both corncob and Miscanthus give polyaromatic solid residues with similar degree of aromatic condensation but with differences in the structure. On the other hand, at lower temperatures, char composition was observed to depend on the different cellulose/hemicellulose/lignin ratios in the feedstocks. Flash carbonization was found to mainly affect the degree of aromatic condensation.

To document

Abstract

Evaluating biochars for their persistence in soil under field conditions is an important step towards their implementation for carbon sequestration. Current evaluations might be biased because the vast majority of studies are short-term laboratory incubations of biochars produced in laboratory-scale pyrolyzers. Here our objective was to investigate the stability of a biochar produced with a medium-scale pyrolyzer, first through laboratory characterization and stability tests and then through field experiment. We also aimed at relating properties of this medium-scale biochar to that of a laboratory-made biochar with the same feedstock. Biochars were made of Miscanthus biomass for isotopic C-tracing purposes and produced at temperatures between 600 and 700°C. The aromaticity and degree of condensation of aromatic rings of the medium-scale biochar was high, as was its resistance to chemical oxidation. In a 90-day laboratory incubation, cumulative mineralization was 0.1% for the medium-scale biochar vs. 45% for the Miscanthus feedstock, pointing to the absence of labile C pool in the biochar. These stability results were very close to those obtained for biochar produced at laboratory-scale, suggesting that upscaling from laboratory to medium-scale pyrolyzers had little effect on biochar stability. In the field, the medium-scale biochar applied at up to 25 t C ha-1 decomposed at an estimated 0.8% per year. In conclusion, our biochar scored high on stability indices in the laboratory and displayed a mean residence time > 100 years in the field, which is the threshold for permanent removal in C sequestration projects.

To document

Abstract

Biochar and its properties can be significantly altered according to how it is produced, and this has ramifications towards how biochar behaves once added to soil. We produced biochars from corncob and miscanthus straw via different methods (slow pyrolysis, hydrothermal and flash carbonization) and temperatures to assess how carbon cycling and soil microbial communities were affected. Mineralization of biochar, its parent feedstock, and native soil organic matter were monitored using 13C natural abundance during a 1-year lab incubation. Bacterial and fungal community compositions were studied using T-RFLP and ARISA, respectively. We found that persistent biochar-C with a half-life 60 times higher than the parent feedstock can be achieved at pyrolysis temperatures of as low as 370 °C, with no further gains to be made at higher temperatures. Biochar re-applied to soil previously incubated with our highest temperature biochar mineralized faster than when applied to unamended soil. Positive priming of native SOC was observed for all amendments but subsided by the end of the incubation. Fungal and bacterial community composition of the soil-biochar mixture changed increasingly with the application of biochars produced at higher temperatures as compared to unamended soil. Those changes were significantly (P < 0.005) related to biochar properties (mainly pH and O/C) and thus were correlated to pyrolysis temperature. In conclusion, our results suggest that biochar produced at temperatures as low as 370 °C can be utilized to sequester C in soil for more than 100 years while having less impact on soil microbial activities than high-temperature biochars.

To document

Abstract

Key priorities in biochar research for future guidance of sustainable policy development have been identified by expert assessment within the COST Action TD1107. The current level of scientific understanding (LOSU) regarding the consequences of biochar application to soil were explored. Five broad thematic areas of biochar research were addressed: soil biodiversity and ecotoxicology, soil organic matter and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, soil physical properties, nutrient cycles and crop production, and soil remediation. The highest future research priorities regarding biochar’s effects in soils were: functional redundancy within soil microbial communities, bioavailability of biochar’s contaminants to soil biota, soil organic matter stability, GHG emissions, soil formation, soil hydrology, nutrient cycling due to microbial priming as well as altered rhizosphere ecology, and soil pH buffering capacity. Methodological and other constraints to achieve the required LOSU are discussed and options for efficient progress of biochar research and sustainable application to soil are presented.

To document

Abstract

Biochar is a carbon-rich solid product obtained by pyrolysis of biomass. Here, we investigated multiple biochars produced under slow pyrolysis (235–800 °C), flash carbonization, and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC), using Scanning Electron Microscope—Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) in order to determine whether SEM-EDX can be used as a proxy to characterize biochars effectively. Morphological analysis showed that feedstock has an integrated structure compared to biochar; more pores were generated, and the size became smaller when the temperature increased. Maximum carbon content (max. C) and average carbon content (avg. C) obtained from SEM-EDX exhibited a positive relationship with pyrolysis temperature, with max. C correlating most closely with dry combustion total carbon content. The SEM-EDX O/C ratios displayed a consistent response with the highest treatment temperature (HTT). The study suggests that SEM-EDX produces highly consistent C, oxygen (O), and C/O ratios that deserve further investigation as an operational tool for characterization of biochar products.

Abstract

Bakgrunn: Hvordan skal vi skaffe nok mat til en økende mengde av mennesker? Hvordan skal vi produsere mer mat uten å ødelegge miljøet? Jeg har vokst opp i forskjellige land hvor jeg opplevde store forskjeller når det gjelder hvilken tilgang folk hadde til god, trygg og sunn mat og andre ressurser. Denne erfaringen har vært avgjørende for min interesse for miljø. I mange år har jeg fulgt opp denne interessen, og arbeider aktivt for å bidra til en bedre verden og en bedre livskvalitet. I dag er jord en av våre viktigste ressurser og det arbeider jeg med. Mitt doktorgradsprosjekt: Når du spiser et godt måltid mat tenker du neppe på hvor mye olje eller energi som ble brukt for å produsere den. Du tenker nok heller ikke på hvor mye karbon som forsvant fra jorda bare for å skaffe nok fôr til dyrene når du spiser et kjøttmåltid. Du tenker nok heller ikke så mye på at god jord gir mer mat og bedre ernæring. Dyrking av korn, poteter og grønnsaker krever vanligvis intensiv bearbeiding av jord. Dette fører til mindre karboninnhold i jord og tap av produksjonsevne. I tillegg øker faren for klimaendring på grunn av en stadig høyere mengde av karbondioksid i atmosfæren. Jeg forsker på biokull. Med riktig bruk kan biokull bidra til økt karboninnholdet i jorda og bedre jordkvalitet. For å øke karboninnhold i jorda har bøndene alltid tilført husdyrgjødsel og annen organisk gjødsel i tillegg til avlingsrester. Men planterester bryter raskt ned og en mer effektiv måte å lagre karbon i jord er å forkulle planterester først. Bruk av biokull i jord er en urgammel jordbruksmetode som har i det siste fått stor oppmerksomhet. Hvis denne spennende teknologien skal bidra til å øke karboninnholdet i jorda, må biokullet være mer stabil mot nedbryting. Og siden matproduksjon i overskuelig fremtid er basert på fruktbar jord, må vi også teste om biokull faktisk kan gjøre jorda bedre. Mange sier at biokull er jordas nye sorte gull.