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Chemical Engineer Joins Biochar Centre

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Professor Jim Jones has been appointed to the second professorial position at the New Zealand Biochar Research Centre.

Professor Jones, a chemical engineer, joins soil scientist Associate Professor Marta Camps as a co-director of the centre. Together they will investigate the production of biochar from New Zealand biomass, or organic matter, and its sequestration by adding it to soil.

Turning biomass to biochar captures and locks away carbon that was extracted from the atmosphere during growth. Biomass growth is the least expensive method for extracting atmospheric carbon. However, when biomass dies and decays, the stored carbon decomposes to atmospheric carbon as carbon dioxide and methane.

Professor Jones will develop the biochar production technology and the associated bioenergy generation. Associate Professor Camps will investigate the functional form of biochar and whether the soil health benefits can be realised in New Zealand soils and environments.

He says the centre will focus on advancing the understanding of biochar for mitigating climate change. “Over the next three to four years we hope to make significant progress towards determining the process economics of biochar production and to have assessed the efficacy of biochar in a range of New Zealand soils.”

Professor Jones has spent 11 years at Massey University. His research covers particle technology, heat and mass transfer, and solids handling. “These are all important in developing the technology necessary in the production chain from feedstock harvest and handling, pyrolysis, formulation of a suitable delivery vehicle, to eventual biochar amendment to soil,” he says.

He has previous experience in pulp and paper engineering, aluminium manufacture, detergents, food and fertilisers. He has a chemical engineering degree from Canterbury University, a Master’s from the University of Idaho and a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

College of Sciences Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Anderson says the appointment of Professor Jones completes the Biochar Research Centre. “We have now formed a strong partnership that will lead research in this vital area,” he says. “Professor Jones has an admirable record both here at Massey and within industry, and is uniquely placed to help lead the centre.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry funds the centre’s two professorships and provides $1million annually for research and development.


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