Project Details Glossary of terms used in biochar research

Project No.: 
Start Date: 
07 February 2018
End Date: 


To provide clear, precise and comprehensive definitions for terms related to the rapidly developing area of biochar research and application.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of research, the glossary will act as a reference document for stakeholders from different backgrounds and as an introduction to biochar for a wide audience. It will also enhance the efforts for standardization of biochar production, characterization and applications.  The proposed Glossary will supplement both the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) and the European Biochar Certificate that have been developed by biochar scientists to become the voluntary industrial standard, in terms of biomass feedstocks, production method, analysis and final biochar properties.


Biochar is a solid material obtained from the carbonization thermochemical conversion of biomass in an oxygen-limited environments. In more technical terms, biochar is produced by thermal decomposition of organic material (biomass such as wood, manure, leaves, husks) under limited supply of oxygen (O2), and commonly at temperatures below 700°C. When applied to soil, some biochars have been found to decrease nutrient leaching, enhance pH, improve soil carbon concentrations and soil fertility. Additionally, biochars encourage moisture retention and aeration and have shown to contribute towards reduced methane and other greenhouse gases emissions.

Biochar research is highly interdisciplinary – it is based on the use of analytical techniques (material characterization), and examination of its soil, water and biological chemistry (applications). Two of the main challenges towards wider, large-scale use of biochars are standardization and regulation. Each biochar batch can be different from other batches; even two made, one after the other may vary if the process conditions and/or feedstock properties differ. Developing (national or international) regulations for the production, characterization and applications of biochar is hindered by the lack of standardization both in terms of procedures as well as terminology. As an example, the use of terms such as “pyrochar” “char”, “black carbon”, “biochar”, “agrichar”, are often used in literature to mean the same product and this may be confusing.

The Glossary of terms proposed will be a comprehensive compilation of terms used in biochar research. It will consist of 3 sections: Production, Characterization, Application and each term will be followed by a short explanation. A comprehensive literature review for the most important papers (based on citations) in each of these 3 categories, will allow us to form the first draft of the Glossary, which will then be sent out to relevant parties and stakeholders for consultation. The Glossary is supported by major Biochar initiatives worldwide and will bridge the gap between standardization of procedures and regulation. IUPAC, as the globally accepted authority on scientific nomenclature and terminology issues, is the suitable organization to support this effort.


August 2018 update – project announcement published in Chem Int, July 2018, p. 33,

February 2020 update – a manuscript has been submitted and is under review.

page last updated 17 Feb 2020