Biomass

Energy Source Of The Future?

What do we mean by Biomass as an energy source?

Biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms. It is plant material, vegetation, or agricultural waste used as a fuel or energy source.


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Gasification

A process that uses high temperatures to convert carbon based organic or fossil materials (biomass) into a biogas which can be used as fuel. These biogases are often composed of different gases like carbon monoxide, hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.


Example: Gasification of coal


The gasification of coal is the process of deriving biogas from coal + water and air or O2 to create a mixture consisting primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor.


Equation = C (s) + H2O (aq) + O2 (g) -> CO (g)+ H2 (g)+ CO2 (g)+ H2O (g)


Example: Deriving pure hydrogen from a biogas


Gasification is often used in order to create pure hydrogen from a biogas, shown below is the process of turning methane (a common byproduct of gasification) into methane with the help of water vapor.


Equation: CH4 (g) + 2 H2O (g) → CO2 (g) + 4 H2 (g)

Combustion

A series of exothermic reactions between a fuel and an oxidant resulting in heat, the production of heat usually appears as a glow or a flame.


The basic equation:


biomass + O2 (g) → CO2 (g) + H2O (g) + energy


An equation using the combustion of glucose as an example:


C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (g) + heat energy


Biochemical conversion of biomass using microorganisms

Using microorganisms one can break down the organic material in the biomass and transform it into a biogas which can be used as fuel.



Using glucose as an example:


Equation: C6H12O6 (s)→ 3 CH4 (g) + 3 CO2 (g) + energy

Modern use of Biomass

With today’s technology, plant materials can be used to generate electricity, heat, or liquid fuels for motor vehicles that have substantially lower environmental impacts than traditional fossil fuels. Chemical energy stored in biomass can be converted to heat through combustion. Biomass can be converted to liquid or gaseous fuels or can be used to generate electricity in the same way that coal is used. The electricity generated can be sent to energy consumers via electric transmission systems. These applications can be at a small scale, for example to cook or make hot water, or at a large scale, for example to generate biogas.


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Outlook for the future

While biomass is currently not a heavily used renewable energy source scientists predict that it in the future will play a major role in generating enough sustainable and also renewable energy to power our society. In essence it will be a part of a group of different renewable energy sources like for example wind or solar energy, which will be used to power our society in the future.



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