Can charcoal help fight climate change? Funding for Swansea expert will help find answers

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Most of us think of charcoal only when we’re lighting a barbecue, but research at Swansea looking at its potential for tackling climate change has been boosted by an award of £1000 from the Welsh Livery Guild.

Ian Mugford, a PhD research student in the College of Science, is researching biochar, which is a carbonised material, similar to charcoal, made of plants and wood.   Biochar can lock away carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years, keeping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the air.

Ian’s research has now been given a big boost by the Welsh Livery Guild, which has awarded him a travel scholarship of £1000 to allow him to carry out fieldwork in Italy. 

Ian explained:

“My work looks at traditional and modern charcoal production.  We’re trying to find out what the long-term impact is of applying biochar to soil.  We have to look at soil in different climates. So the travel scholarship from the Welsh Livery Guild is very welcome as it has helped to support a research trip to Italy, which is vital in developing my work.”

Professor Alayne Street-Perrott, an international expert in the field and Ian’s research supervisor, said:

“We have a team at Swansea University made up of experts from different subjects, all looking at biochar.  We don’t really know a lot about happens when charcoal or biochar is added to soil, but it’s important to find out.   It could make a big difference in helping us tackle carbon emissions.”

Adrian Warner from the Welsh Livery Guild said

“Our awards are to help people develop their talents.  We look to support outstanding students with a strong Welsh connection.  We cover the whole of Wales and fund a wide range of awards – whether for apprentices or for students in schools, colleges and universities.”