Generalized two-dimensional perturbation correlation infrared spectroscopy reveals mechanisms for the development of surface charge and recalcitrance in plant-derived biochars.
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Fundamental knowledge of how biochars develop surface-charge and resistance to environmental degradation is crucial to their production for customized applications or understanding their functions in the environment. Two-dimensional perturbation-based correlation infrared spectroscopy (2D-PCIS) was used to study the biochar formation process in three taxonomically different plant biomass, under oxygen-limited conditions along a heat-treatment-temperature gradient (HTT; 200-650 °C). Results from 2D-PCIS pointed to the systematic, HTT-induced defragmenting of lignocellulose H-bonding network and demethylenation/demethylation, oxidation, or dehydroxylation/dehydrogenation of lignocellulose fragments as the primary reactions controlling biochar properties along the HTT gradient. The cleavage of OH(...)O-type H-bonds, oxidation of free primary hydroxyls to carboxyls (carboxylation; HTT ≤ 500 °C), and their subsequent dehydrogenation/dehydroxylation (HTT > 500 °C) controlled surface charge on the biochars; while the dehydrogenation of methylene groups, which yielded increasingly condensed structures (R-CH(2)-R →R═CH-R →R═C═R), controlled biochar recalcitrance. Variations in biochar properties across plant biomass type were attributable to taxa-specific transformations. For example, apparent inefficiencies in the cleavage of wood-specific H-bonds, and their subsequent oxidation to carboxyls, lead to lower surface charge in wood biochars (compared to grass biochars). Both nontaxa and taxa-specific transformations highlighted by 2D-PCIS could have significant implications for biochar functioning in fire-impacted or biochar-amended systems.
author list (cited authors)
Harvey, O. R., Herbert, B. E., Kuo, L., & Louchouarn, P.