Optimization of pyrolysis conditions for char production from rice husks and its characterization as a precursor for production of activated carbon

  • E. MenyaEmail author
  • P. W. Olupot
  • H. Storz
  • M. Lubwama
  • Y. Kiros
  • M. J. John
Original Article


Response surface methodology was employed to optimize pyrolysis conditions for production of char with maximum yield, fixed carbon content, and with minimum ash content from Uganda’s New Rice for Africa (NERICA) 1 rice husk variety. The aim was to obtain rice husk char with more suitable properties as an activated carbon precursor. Mathematical models were developed to explain the relationships between the experimental responses and the pyrolysis parameters of temperature (400–600 °C), heating rate (10–25 °C min−1), and heating period (60–120 min). The optimized rice husk char was further characterized for elemental and proximate compositions, thermal behavior, specific surface area, as well as surface functional groups. Results from the analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed that the quadratic model best fits each of the responses. Pyrolysis temperature had the greatest influence on each of the responses, followed by heating period, and lastly heating rate. Optimum pyrolysis conditions were found to be temperature (406 °C), heating rate (10 °C min−1), and heating period (60 min), resulting in char yield, fixed carbon, and ash contents of 35.26, 55.39, and 35.01% dry basis, respectively. Compared to raw rice husk, the resulting rice husk char was found more suited as activated carbon precursor, due to its enriched carbon content (60.35%) and specific surface area (123.9 m2 g−1). Thermogravimetric analysis of the rice husk char revealed that thermal activation temperatures higher than 400 °C may be required to considerably devolatilize the char, forming a more porous activated carbon.


NERICA 1 rice husk Pyrolysis Optimization Char yield Fixed carbon Ash content 



Technical support from Ms. Evgenia Feldmann of the Thuenen Institute of Agricultural Technology is gratefully acknowledged.

Funding information

This work is financially supported by the Volkswagen Foundation under its “Postdoctoral Fellowships for African Researchers in the Engineering Sciences (Grant No. 90014).”

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and TechnologyMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda
  2. 2.Department of Biosystems EngineeringGulu UniversityGuluUganda
  3. 3.Thuenen Institute of Agricultural TechnologyBraunschweigGermany
  4. 4.Department of Chemical EngineeringKTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Polymer and Composite UnitCouncil for Scientific and Industrial ResearchPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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