Hydrothermally carbonized plant materials: Patterns of volatile organic compounds detected by gas chromatography

Roland Becker*, Ute Dorgerloh, Mario Helmis, Jan Mumme, Mamadou Diakité, Irene Nehls

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nature and concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in chars generated by hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is of concern considering their application as soil amendment. Therefore, the presence of VOCs in solid HTC products obtained from wheat straw, biogas digestate and four woody materials was investigated using headspace gas chromatography. A variety of potentially harmful benzenic, phenolic and furanic volatiles along with various aldehydes and ketones were identified in feedstock- and temperature-specific patterns. The total amount of VOCs observed after equilibration between headspace and char samples produced at 270 °C ranged between 2000 and 16,000 μg/g (0.2-1.6. wt.%). Depending on feedstock 50-9000 μg/g of benzenes and 300-1800 μg/g of phenols were observed. Substances potentially harmful to soil ecology such as benzofurans (200-800 μg/g) and p-cymene (up to 6000 μg/g in pine wood char) exhibited concentrations that suggest restrained application of fresh hydrochar as soil amendment or for water purification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-628
Number of pages8
JournalBioresource technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • Benzenes
  • Flame ionization detection
  • Hydrochar
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Phenols


Dive into the research topics of 'Hydrothermally carbonized plant materials: Patterns of volatile organic compounds detected by gas chromatography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this