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Sunday, 26 August 2007
Biomass

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Biomass is organic non-fossil material, collectively. In other words, biomass comprises the mass of all biological organisms, dead or alive, excluding biological mass that has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.

The most successful animal of the earth, in terms of biomass, is the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, with a biomass of probably over 500 million tonnes, roughly twice the total biomass of humans. The entire earth contains about 75 billion tons of biomass. Humans comprise about 250 million tonnes (0.33%), domesticated animals about 700 million (1.0%), and crops about 2 billion tons or 2.7% of the Earth's biomass.

In many ways biomass can be considered as a form of stored solar energy. The energy of the sun is 'captured' through the process of photosynthesis in growing plants.

Biomass is sometimes burned as fuel for cooking and to produce electricity and heat. This is called Biofuel. Biomass used as fuel often consists of underutilized types, like chaff and animal waste. This is often considered a type of alternative energy, although it is a polluting one.

Paradoxically, in some industrialized countries like Germany, food is cheaper than fuel compared by price per joule. Central heating units supplied by food grade wheat or maize are available.

Biomass is also the dried organic mass of an ecosystem. As the trophic level increases, the biomass of each trophic level decreases. That is, producers ( grass, trees, scrubs, etc.) will have a much higher biomass than animals that consume the producers (deer, zebras, insects, etc.). The level with the least biomass will be the highest predators in the food chain (foxes, eagles, etc.)

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Types of high volume industrial biomass on Earth

Certain types of biomass have attracted research and industrial attention. Many of these are considered to be potentially useful for energy or for the production of bio-based products. Most of these are available in very large quanities and have low market value.

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See also

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External links

 

Biofuel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 

This article is about the general topic of biofuel. For an article on the specific type used in vehicles, see Biodiesel.


Biofuel is any fuel that derives from biomass — recently living organisms or their metabolic byproducts, such as manure from cows. It is a renewable energy source, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear fuels.

Agricultural products specifically grown for use as biofuels include corn and soybeans, primarily in the United States, as well as flaxseed and rapeseed, primarily in Europe. Waste from industry, agriculture, forestry, and households can also be used to produce bioenergy; examples include straw, lumber, manure, sewage, garbage and food leftovers. Most biofuel is burned to release its stored chemical energy, though research is active into more efficient methods of converting biofuels and other fuels into electricity utilizing fuel cells.

Biomass can be used both for centralized production of electricity and district heat, and for local heating. As of 2005, bioenergy covers approximately 15% of the world's energy consumption. Most bioenergy is consumed in developing countries and is used for direct heating, as opposed to electricity production. However, Sweden and Finland supply 17% and 19% [1] respectively, of their energy needs with bioenergy, a high figure for industrialized countries.

The production of biofuels to replace oil and natural gas is in active development, focusing on the use of cheap organic matter (usually cellulose, agricultural and sewage waste) in the efficient production of liquid and gas biofuels which yield high net energy gain. The carbon in biofuels was recently extracted from atmospheric carbon dioxide by growing plants, so burning it does not result in a net increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. As a result, biofuels are seen by many as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by using them to replace non-renewable sources of energy.

Contents

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  • 1 Classes of Biofuels
    • 1.1 Solid
    • 1.2 Liquid
    • 1.3 Gaseous
    • 1.4 Other
  • 2 Energy content of Biofuel
  • 3 Examples
    • 3.1 Problems and solutions
    • 3.2 International efforts
    • 3.3 See also
    • 3.4 References
    • 3.5 External links

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Classes of Biofuels

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Solid

There are many forms of solid biomass that are combustible as a fuel1 such as:

Dried compressed peat is also sometimes considered a biofuel. However it does not meet the criteria of being a renewable form of energy, or of the carbon being recently absorbed from atmospheric carbon dioxide by growing plants. Though more recent than petroleum or coal, on the time scale of human industrialisation it is a fossil fuel and burning it does contribute to atmospheric CO2.

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Liquid

There are also a number of liquid forms of biomass that can be used as a fuel:

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Gaseous

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Other

One company, GreenFuel Technologies Corporation, has developed a patented bioreactor system that utilizes nontoxic photosynthetic algae to take in smokestacks flue gases and produce biofuels such as biodiesel, bio-gas (similar to natural gas), and a dry fuel comparable to coal. Coal is a black mineral made by fire.

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Energy content of Biofuel

fuel type Specific Energy Density
(MJ/kg)
Volumetric Energy Density
(MJ/l)
Solid Fuels
Wood fuel 16 – 21             
Dried plants    
Animal waste    
Chaff    
Bagasse 9.6          
Liquid Fuels
Methanol 19.9 – 22.7         15.9        
Ethanol 23.4 – 26.8         23.4        
Butanol 36.0         29.2        
Vegetable oil    
Biodiesel 37.8         33.3 – 35.7        
Gaseous Fuels
Methane 55 – 55.7          Compression Dependent
Hydrogen 120 – 142             Compression Dependent
Fossil Fuels (comparison)
Coal 29.3 – 33.5          
Gasoline 45 – 48.3         32 – 34.8        
Diesel 48.1         40.3        
Natural Gas 38 – 50             Compression Dependent
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Examples

One widespread use of biofuels is in home cooking and heating. Typical fuels for this are wood, charcoal or dried dung. The biofuel may be burned on an open fireplace or in a special stove. The efficiency of this process may vary widely, from 10% for a well made fire (even less if the fire is not made carefully) up to 40% for a custom designed charcoal stove1. Inefficient use of fuel may be a minor cause of deforestation (though this is negligible compared to deliberate destruction to clear land for agricultural use) but more importantly it means that more work has to be put into gathering fuel, thus the quality of cooking stoves has a direct influence on the viability of biofuels.

"American homeowners are turning to burning corn in special stoves to reduce their energy bills. Sales of corn-burning stoves have tripled this year [...] Corn-generated heat costs less than a fifth of the current rate for propane and about a third of electrical heat" [3].

 

Use on farms

In Germany small scale use of biofuel is still a domain of agricultural farms. It is an official aim of the German government to use the entire potential of 200,000 farms for the production of biofuel and bioenergy. (Source: VDI-Bericht "Bioenergie - Energieträger der Zukunft".

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Problems and solutions

Unfortunately, much cooking with biofuels is done indoors, without efficient ventilation, and using fuels such as dung causes airborne pollution. This can be a serious health hazard; 1.5 million deaths were attributed to this cause by the World Health Organisation as of 2000 2. There are various responses to this, such as improved stoves, including those with inbuilt flues and switching to alternative fuel sources. Most of these responses have difficulties. One is that flues are expensive and easily damaged. Another is that alternative fuels tend to be more expensive, but the people who rely on biofuels often do so precisely because they cannot afford alternatives. 3 Organisations such as Intermediate Technology Development Group work to make improved facilities for biofuel use and better alternatives accessible to those who cannot currently get them. This work is done through improving ventilation, switching to different uses of biomass such as the creation of biogas from solid biomatter, or switching to other alternatives such as micro-hydro power.

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International efforts

On the other hand, recognizing the importance of bioenergy and its implementation, there are international organizations such as IEA Bioenergy, established in 1978 by the International Energy Agency (IEA), with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have national programs in bioenergy research, development and deployment.

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See also

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References

  1. Biomass Technical Brief, Simon Ekless, Intermediate Technology Development Group, retrieved 1 January 2005 from http://www.itdg.org/docs/technical_information_service/biomass.pdf.
  2. Smoke — the killer in the kitchen, Intermediate Technology Development Group, 19 March 2004, retrieved 1 January 2005 from http://www.itdg.org/?id=smoke_report_1
  3. Reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, Intermediate Technology Development Group, 19 March 2004, retrieved 1 January 2005 from http://www.itdg.org/?id=smoke_report_3
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External links

 

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Some or all of the content of this page is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 August 2007 )
 
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