Phosphate poses one of Florida’s ongoing water-quality challenges but a process developed by University of Florida researchers could provide an affordable solution, using partially burned organic matter called biochar to remove the mineral.The process also yields methane gas usable as fuel and phosphate-laden carbon suitable for enriching soil, according to Bin Gao and Pratap Pullammanappallil, assistant professors in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Crop wastes would provide raw material for the biochar. A laboratory study demonstrating the effectiveness of biochar for phosphate removal appears in the current issue of the journal Bioresource Technology.
The study involved beet tailings, which are culled beets, scraps and weeds removed from shipments of sugar beets destined for processing to make sugar, said Gao, one of the authors. In the U.S., sugar beets are grown primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the technology can be adapted to other materials, he said. “It’s really sustainable,” Gao said. “We will see if it can be commercialized.” [Click link to read full article]