A graduate student in biofuels at Iowa State University is researching what’s called biochar as a possible remedy to concerns about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bernardo del Campos says biochar is similar to charcoal except it’s not used as fuel but instead, may be able to capture harmful carbons from the air, like carbon dioxide.

“It’s supposed to be wonderful, one of the main tools for sequestering CO2,” says del Campo. “It has many environmental benefits.”

Del Campo, a 29-year-old from Uruguay, says capturing carbon dioxide is only half the battle, as that ties up vital oxygen. With biochar, he says the CO2 can be broken up and the oxygen is released back into the atmosphere.

“What I’m trying to do is see how we can get the best biochar so we can use it as an amendment for soils,” del Campo says. Once the greenhouse gases are captured in biochar, he says they should remain captured.

“It’s very resilient to the soil so it stays for hundreds or thousands of years,” del Campo says. “This has a tremendous potential in the near future.”

Since biochar has the promise to be able to store carbon in the soil for centuries or even millennia, he says it’s getting significant interest as a possible tool to slow global warming.