Carbon firm sends test samples

22:21, Mar 24 2009

Marlborough charcoal technology company Carbonscape has two reasons to celebrate: it has sent the first batch of charcoal created with its microwave technology off for testing, and has welcomed a big name from across the Tasman to its board.

Carbonscape's microwave technology is believed to be a world first, allowing greater control in the process of turning waste wood to charcoal. The result is a potential fertiliser able to be used on farm crops.

Director Nick Gerritsen said 10 charcoal samples, or biochar, were sent to Lincoln University last week to be used in a soil science research programme over the next two years.

Meanwhile, Tim Flannery, the international climate change campaigner who wrote The Weather Makers and was named 2007 Australian of the Year, has joined Carbonscape's board of directors.

Mr Gerritsen said: "As a small startup company like this, Tim adds a lot of value because he has a global presence and contacts."

Over the past two years, the Riverlands Estate-based company has developed a machine called the Black Phantom which uses microwave technology to heat wood from the inside.


Mr Gerritsen said he believed that the company had achieved a world first by using microwave technology to turn wood to charcoal.

He said the technique allowed the temperature and other properties to be changed to get the desired biochar with the right properties needed for specific soil types.

The samples, all with varying properties, would be tested to find out their uses and impact on specific soil types and crop types.

The process creates a valuable byproduct, bio oil, which Carbonscape is also testing at the moment, Mr Gerritsen said.

So far there had been interest from six research institutions around the world for the biochar product, Mr Gerritsen said. By putting carbon back into the ground, biochar could be a solution to the problem of balancing greenhouse gas emissions, he said.


Kaikoura Star