Monday, January 26, 2015

Biomass and biofuels offer multi-utilization

Biomass can be defined as biological material that originates from living, or recently living organisms, most often referring to plants or plant-derived materials. Unlike other renewable energy sources, biomass can be directly converted to liquid fuels, the so called biofuels. The two most common types of biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel, whose production is constantly growing in the last two decades.

Ethanol is produced by the fermentation of biomass high in carbohydrates through a process that is quite similar to the one of brewing beer. The practical use of ethanol is as a fuel additive to reduce the total vehicle's greenhouse gas emissions.

Biodiesel, on the other hand, is produced by combining alcohol with vegetable oil or animal fat. Biodiesel is also used as an additive to reduce car greenhouse gas emissions and it can be also used in its pure form as a renewable alternative fuel for diesel engines.

The oil market is more volatile than ever before and because of this biofuels are really among only handful of alternatives to gasoline. The largest ethanol and biodiesel producers in the world are United States and Brazil.

Chinese are also rapidly entering the biofuel market. China has constructed the world's largest fuel ethanol facility at Jilin. This facility uses corn, but Chinese have been already experimenting with cassava, sweet potato and sugar cane.

The increased biofuel production requires adequate support from government. The positive example of the supportive biofuel policy comes from the Germany where Germany government has slashed taxes on biofuel production.

There are many ongoing researches from all over the globe where scientists look for new ways to transform biomass into energy. The key is to find the most cost-effective solution to produce biomass and biofuels, the one that could challenge fossil fuels in terms of efficiency and total costs.

Among most interesting studies is the one coming from the Pennsylvania State University. The researchers at the Pennsylvania State University have developed an electricity generator that is fuelled by human waste. This system is able to produce 51 kilowatts of power from the waste of 100,000 people.

The researches of this kind could be especially helpful to the third world countries that are often lacking funds when discussing new energy options. The notable work in this area is being done at national environmental engineering research institute (NEERI) Nagpur, Maharashtra, India where researchers are developing the use of activated sludge to evaluate its potential as a source of microorganisms capable of producing biodegradable plastics.

The multiple utilization of biomass is one of its main advantages when compared with other renewable energy sources. Just imagine what kind of breakthrough solution for both environment and economy would be if world could transform much of its enormous waste to useful energy. 

No comments: