Biocrude extraction from human-excreta-derived hydrochar for sustainable energy and agricultural applications

Reut Yahav Spitzer, Yonas Zeslase Belete, Revital Sharon-Gojman, Roy Posmanik, Amit Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrothermal carbonization may be a sustainable sanitary treatment for wet organic waste including human excreta. Human-excreta-derived hydrochar properties differ from those of typical wet biomass due to the formation of a biocrude-like phase at low reaction temperatures. This study characterized the importance of this phase in terms of hydrochar combustion properties and potential agricultural use. Hydrothermal carbonization of raw human excreta was undertaken at 180, 210, and 240 °C, after which the biocrude phase was extracted with dichloromethane. Physicochemical properties, surface-area parameters, combustion profiles, and gas emissions of non-extracted hydrochar, biocrude, and extracted hydrochar were compared. The potential agricultural use of extracted hydrochar was assessed in germination experiments. Biocrude comprised up to 49.5% of hydrochar mass with a calorific value of >60% that of extracted hydrochar. Biocrude combustion properties were better than those of hydrochar, before and after extraction as demonstrated by higher combustion index value (Si). The extracted hydrochar surface area (34.7 m2 g−1) was greater than that of non-extracted hydrochar (<2 m2 g−1), and seeds germinated more readily due to the lower phytotoxin content. Most macro and micronutrients required for plant growth were retained in the extracted hydrochar. The extraction of biocrude from human-excreta-derived hydrochar not only provided a higher-quality fuel with enhanced combustion properties but also improved hydrochar characteristics, suggesting its potential as a soil additive for enhanced plant growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118287
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2024


  • Biocrude
  • Combustion
  • Extracted hydrochar
  • Human excreta
  • Hydrothermal carbonization
  • Seed germination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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