Biochar Use in Sensors

biochar microelectrode made of small plastic container with wirers attached to biochar pieces and electrolite solution for electrical conductivity; plastic container is caped with two wires passing though to the outside

ISTC researcher examined biochar as a cost-effective, more sustainable replacement for activated carbon in electrodes inside sensors for water quality tests. As a part of the I-STEM High School Summer Research Experience, Chris Yim – a University Laboratory High School student – worked with Jiang to develop sensors made with biochar, which were designed to detect nitrite in water.

The sensors were able to detect nitrite in water at concentrations as low as 9.2 mg/L which is only three time more than the USEPA’s maximum contaminant level of 3.29 mg/L nitrite but is still well under the fatal dose of nitrite for an average adult. More research is needed to refine the sensitivity but the researchers hope that this will become a low-cost nitrite testing solution for underdeveloped and developing countries.