Skip to main content

A scientometric review of biochar research in the past 20 years (1998–2018)


Biochar is the carbon-rich product obtained from the thermochemical conversion of biomass under oxygen-limited conditions. Biochar has attained extensive attention due to its agronomical and environmental benefits in agro-ecosystems. This work adopts the scientometric analysis method to assess the development trends of biochar research based on the literature data retrieved from the Web of Science over the period of 1998–2018. By analysing the basic characteristics of 6934 publications, we found that the number of publications grew rapidly since 2010. Based on a keyword analysis, it is concluded that scholars have had a fundamental recognition of biochar and preliminarily found that biochar application had agronomic and environmental benefits during the period of 1998–2010. The clustering results of keywords in documents published during 2011–2015 showed that the main research hotspots were “biochar production”, “biochar and global climate change”, “soil quality and plant growth”, “organic pollutants removal”, and “heavy metals immobilization”. While in 2016–2018, beside these five main research hotspots, “biochar and composting” topic had also received greater attention, indicating that biochar utilization in organic solid waste composting is the current research hotspot. Moreover, updated reactors (e.g., microwave reactor, fixed-bed reactor, screw-feeding reactor, bubbling fluidized bed reactor, etc.) or technologies (e.g., solar pyrolysis, Thermo-Catalytic Reforming process, liquefaction technology, etc.) applied for efficient energy production and modified biochar for environmental remediation have been extensively studied recently. The findings may help the new researchers to seize the research frontier in the biochar field.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


Download references


We gratefully acknowledge the support by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21537002, 41422105, 41671478), and the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, China (Project No. BK20130050).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yujun Wang or Wenfu Chen.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 90 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wu, P., Ata-Ul-Karim, S.T., Singh, B.P. et al. A scientometric review of biochar research in the past 20 years (1998–2018). Biochar 1, 23–43 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: