Dramatic changes in molecular structure, degradation pathway, and porosity of biochar are observed at pyrolysis temperatures ranging from 250 to 550 °C when bamboo biomass is pretreated by iron-sulfate-clay slurries (iron-clay biochar), as compared to untreated bamboo biochar. Electron microscopy analysis of the biochar reveals the infusion of mineral species into the pores of the biochar and the formation of mineral nanostructures. Quantitative 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy shows that the presence of the iron clay prevents degradation of the cellulosic fraction at pyrolysis temperatures of 250 °C, whereas at higher temperatures (350-550 °C), the clay promotes biomass degradation, resulting in an increase in both the concentrations of condensed aromatic, acidic, and phenolic carbon species. The porosity of the biochar, as measured by NMR cryoporosimetry, is altered by the iron-clay pretreatment. In the presence of the clay, at lower pyrolysis temperatures, the biochar develops a higher pore volume, while at higher temperature, the presence of clay causes a reduction in the biochar pore volume. The most dramatic reduction in pore volume is observed in the kaolinite-infiltrated biochar at 550 °C, which is attributed to the blocking of the mesopores (2-50 nm pore) by the nonporous metakaolinite formed from kaolinite.
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