News Release

Biochar-infused concrete: a green solution for corporate sustainability

Biochar-infused concrete is a sustainable material that can be safely used for construction in alignment with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Cactus Communications

Biochar-Infused Concrete: A Green Solution for Corporate Sustainability

image: Prof. Yong Sik Ok, the Chair and Director of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Sustainable Waste Management Program, President of the International ESG Association (IESGA), HCR (Highly Cited Researcher) Professor at Korea University, and lead author of the article. view more 

Credit: Professor Yong Sik Ok

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activities are the primary drivers of climate change and rising global temperatures. Among the many anthropogenic activities resulting in CO2 emissions, those undertaken by the construction industry have a significant carbon footprint. Therefore, it is essential to mitigate these emissions by switching to low-carbon sustainable construction materials that use bio-based constituents. One such popular bio-based alternative is biochar.

Biochar is the carbon-rich product of the thermochemical conversion of biomass in an oxygen-deficient environment, which has found use in soil amendment in agriculture, as an adsorbent for water and air purification, and as an additive in asphalt for road construction. Biochar is among the most promising materials for carbon sequestration owing to its property to adsorb more than twice its weight in CO2. Therefore, it is now finding applications as a substitute for cement in concrete production. While other bio-based materials are known to decrease the structural performance of concrete, studies show that biochar can enhance such properties if used correctly.

Adding biochar to concrete enhances its mechanical properties and contributes to sustainability objectives. It further reduces the need for traditional cement content, which is desirable given that cement production contributes significantly to carbon emissions. By replacing a portion of cement with biochar, corporate practitioners can substantially lower the carbon footprint of infrastructure development.

What are the benefits and challenges of using biochar in cement? A new article made available online on July 22, 2023, and published in October 2023 in Volume 143 of the journal Cement and Concrete Composites collates the latest research on this topic and provides an in-depth overview of not only the cementitious performance and physicochemical properties of biochar as a construction material, but also its suitability as a sustainable additive in cement, for both economically and ecologically beneficial outcomes. “Since cement production is responsible for about 8% of global CO2 emissions, the core objective of this article is to highlight the potential of biochar in significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry, while also being economical,” says Prof. Yong Sik Ok, who is the Chair and Director of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Sustainable Waste Management Program, President of the International ESG Association (IESGA), HCR (Highly Cited Researcher) Professor at Korea University, and lead author of the article.

ESG practices encompass social responsibility and community engagement. Adopting biochar-infused concrete demonstrates a commitment to sustainable construction practices, which can positively impact local communities. Reduced emissions and improved air quality, resulting from lower cement usage, can lead to healthier living environments for nearby residents. Corporate practitioners can foster positive relationships with communities by showcasing their dedication to minimizing environmental impacts by advocating for the use of biochar-infused concrete.

“In the long term, biochar can transform the construction industry by influencing architectural practices, urban planning, and infrastructure development toward carbon neutrality. It could also influence industry standards and policies to enable the adoption of other sustainable practices, such as adherence to ESG frameworks, and pave the way for job creation and economic growth in this sector. By reducing the industry's carbon footprint and fostering sustainable construction practices, our work on biochar could significantly contribute to a greener, more resilient, and socially responsible built environment that positively impacts the lives of both current and future generations,” concludes a hopeful Prof. Ok.

Here’s hoping his visions come true.







Authors: Sachini Supunsala Senadheera1,2, Souradeep Gupta3, Harn Wei Kua 4, Deyi Hou5, Sumin Kim6, Daniel C.W. Tsang7,8, and Yong Sik Ok1,2



1 Korea Biochar Research Center, APRU Sustainable Waste Management & Division of Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering, Korea University, Republic of Korea

2 International ESG Association (IESGA), Republic of Korea

3 Centre for Sustainable Technologies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

4 Department of the Built Environment, College of Design and Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore

5 School of Environment, Tsinghua University, China

6 Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Yonsei University, Republic of Korea

7 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China

8 Research Centre for Resources Engineering towards Carbon Neutrality, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China


About APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program
As a network of leading universities linking the Americas, Asia, and Australasia, APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities) brings together thought leaders, researchers, and policy-makers to exchange ideas and collaborate toward practical solutions to combat the challenges of the 21st century. The APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program focuses on adopting environmentally friendly practices to manage waste effectively, while minimizing its negative impacts on the environment and human health. It involves various strategies and approaches to reduce, reuse, recycle, and properly dispose of waste materials together with ESG concepts. Prof. Yong Sik Ok at Korea University serves as the Director of the program and co-directed by Prof. William Mitch at Stanford University.


About Professor Yong Sik Ok
Prof. Yong Sik Ok is a Full Professor and the Director at Korea University, Seoul, Korea. Currently, he is the Director of the Sustainable Waste Management Program for the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU). He is also the President of the International ESG Association. Prof. Ok has made history by being the first and only Highly Cited Researcher (HCR) in three fields, namely, Environment and Ecology, Engineering, and Biology and Biochemistry, in the year 2022, which is abundant evidence of his outstanding contribution to research. Notably, he was declared an HCR in Cross Fields in 2018 and became the first Korean HCR in Environment and Ecology in 2019. Additionally, he was declared the first Korean HCR in Environment and Ecology, and Engineering in 2021.

Prof. Ok has served on the Scientific Organizing Committee of the P4G Nature Forum: Climate Change and Biodiversity, and the Nature Forum: Plastics and Sustainability. He has also chaired several major conferences, including the Engineering Sustainable Development (ESD) series, organized by the APRU and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Prof. Ok hosted the first Nature conference in Seoul, which was attended by representatives from several South Korean universities, on waste management and valorization for a sustainable future. This conference was held in collaboration with the Chief Editors of Nature Sustainability, Nature Electronics, and Nature Nanotechnology, in 2021. Furthermore, he also partnered with Nature journal to host the first Nature Forum on ESG for Global Sustainability: The “E” Pillar for Sustainable Business in August 2022. The 2023 Global ESG Forum in Singapore was another remarkable event that concluded with academic experts, industrial partners, and ESG practitioners.

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