You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

New bio-based technology uses waste wood to produce high-value activated carbon

Photo of Figure 1. Wood feedstock to final product conversion:  (a) micro-chips made from the wood of coniferous tree species; (b) biochar from wood chips carbonized in a pyrolysis system; and (c) activated carbon made from biochar activated using steam in a rotary calciner. Figure 1. Wood feedstock to final product conversion: (a) micro-chips made from the wood of coniferous tree species; (b) biochar from wood chips carbonized in a pyrolysis system; and (c) activated carbon made from biochar activated using steam in a rotary calciner. Snapshot : Forest Service scientists investigated making activated carbon products from renewable woody biomass material such as forest or mill residues for technology potential and environmental benefit with a comparison to commercial coal activated carbon. The results demonstrated that expanding biofuels and bioproducts production using renewable forest biomass as feedstock contributes to not only alternatives to fossil fuels, but also facilitates forest restoration treatments by providing new markets for management of woody biomass residues.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gu, HongmeiBergman, Richard, PhD
Research Location : Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1294

Summary

Making low-to-no-value forest residues, generated from the forest management practices associated with wildfire, pest, and disease control, into high value-added products has been an on-going focus for Forest Service research. This project studied the technology potential, product properties, and associated environmental impacts for woody biomass residue thermal conversion into activated carbon (AC) for gas purification and waste stream treatment. Commercial AC products are usually made from hard coal, a non-renewable material. The environmental benefits for woody biomass-based AC compared to coal-based AC were demonstrated using the life cycle assessment tool, an internationally accepted method. Less primary energy, especially fossil energy, was consumed for the woody biomass-based AC from cradle-to-gate compared to the coal-based AC. Consequentially, greenhouse gas emissions were reduced to more than half of the coal AC production for wood-based AC production. This was due to both the lower energy consumption and the biogenic carbon benefit when using the biomass residues both as feedstock and processing energy. In addition, the physical properties of the woody biomass-based AC were better than the commercially available coal-based AC for absorption. Such promising results from this study open up a potential high-value market for underutilized forest residues from U.S. forest restoration and wildfire suppression treatment.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Forest Service Technology & Development
  • Green Diamond Resource Company
  • Humboldt State University
  • Jump Trucking, Inc.
  • The Coquille Indian Tribe
  • Tricon Timber, LLC
  • Tucker Engineering Associates, Inc.
  • University of Montana
  • Washington State University