The applicability of bone char as a long-term phosphorus nutrient source was assessed by integrating their mineral transformation and physicochemical properties with their dissolution behavior. We have explored synchrotron-based spectroscopic and imaging techniques (FTIR, XRD, and TXM) to investigate the physicochemical changes of bone and bone char along a charring temperature gradient (300–1200 °C) and used a lab incubation experiment to study their dissolution behaviors in solutions of different pH (4, 6, and 6.9). The thermal decomposition of inorganic carbonate (CO32−) and the loss of organic components rendered a crystallographic rearrangement (blueshift of the PO43− peak) and mineral transformation with increasing temperatures. The mineral transformation from B-type to AB- and A-type carbonate substitution occurred mainly at <700 °C, while the transformation from carbonated hydroxyapatite (CHAp) to more mineralogically and chemically stable HAp occurred at >800 °C. The loss of inorganic carbonate and the increase of structural OH− with increasing temperatures explained the change of pH buffering capacity and increase of pH and their dissolution behaviors. The higher peak area ratios of phosphate to carbonate and phosphate to amide I band with increasing temperatures corroborated the higher stability and resistivity to acidic dissolution by bone chars made at higher temperatures. Our findings suggest that bone char made at low to intermediate temperatures can be a substantial source of phosphorus for soil fertility via waste management and recycling. The bone char made at 500 °C exhibited a high pH buffering capacity in acidic and near-neutral solutions. The 700 °C bone char was proposed as a suitable liming agent for raising the soil pH and abating soil acidity. Our study has underpinned the systematic changes of bone char and interlinked the charring effect with their dissolution behavior, providing a scientific base for understanding the applicability of different bone chars as suitable P-fertilizers.
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