The Burnt Biomass

An investigation of biomass energy By: Dheemant Dammanna

Purpose

To see what type of biomass can be the most effective source of renewable energy.

Problem

What type of biomass can be the most effective source of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels?

Research

Our world faces a significant energy crisis. Fossil fuels are a primary issue in our world today. Biomass energy is the use of organic material to produce energy. It can be made of wood, grass, crop residue, manure, and even municipal waste.


Grass is one of the types of biomass that can be used. Grass encompasses a wide variety of tall and skinny plants. One of the most efficient types of biomass is a grass called switchgrass.


Crop residue can also be used as a source of biomass. This type of biomass can be collected near crops and from processed food. This residue can also be used as potential candidate for a sustainable biomass solution.


Another biomass solution is manure. Manure is not only used as a source of biomass, but also as a fertilizer. The manure is a very effective fertilizer because it contains all of the nutrients that are needed for a plant to grow.


Another source of biomass energy is from wood. Wood currently accounts for the majority of biomass activities in the U.S. This wood creates fuel for many people around the world and can be an expanded industry. This can be a good option to be an energy alternative.

Another option for biomass is waste. Waste can be use in many ways. The organic part can be used to power a biomass plant. This part of a landfill can be burned to make energy. Waste also contains methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is a huge contributor to global warming. Methane can be used as a biogas. Methane can be extracted from these waste plants and can be used as a natural gas or propane alternative.


The energy from biomass can be harvested in many ways. It can be burned. In this way it burns and the steam causes a turbine to move. This motion causes power to be transferred in order to allow for the electricity needed to power current day products. Coal and Natural gas plants can be converted into biomass and biogas plants. This is very efficient as it produces almost no pollution because the plants can take in the pollution that was let out because of the burning process in the factory. This also allows for existing fossil fuel plants to have a purpose and be able to be used. Another method of using biomass is through a method called “co-firing.” This method mixes little amounts of coal and biomass and fires them both together in a coal plant. This is a cheaper and less polluting method than the plant that just fires the biomass.


Another type of biomass is ethanol. This is a form of alcohol that is made from corn starch. Ethanol is used in cars and can be much more fuel efficient than regular fossil fuels such as petroleum. Ethanol can be transferred into existing gas station instead of fossil fuel based gas. This will allow for cleaner fuel and for gas stations to be able to be used.

Heating biomass with a certain number of oxygen molecules, will allow for the biomass to convert to a biogas called, Syngas. Biogasification is much more efficient than raw burning of biomass. It allows for the gas to produce electricity much quicker.


Only 1.5 percent of energy is biomass. That is 50 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Wind power currently generates more power per year than biomass. Biomass can and will make a resurgence if it is put into place. Biomass will allow for the production of clean energy and will be able to replace current fossil fuel based energy systems.

Variables

1. Dependent Variable- The temperature of water.

2. Independent Variable – The type of biomass.

3. Control – No real control group because the investigation is comparative.

4. Experimental Group -No real experimental group because the investigation is comparative.

5. Factors Held Constant;

  • The amount of water

  • The time of burning the biomass

Hypothesis

If peat moss, wood, and grass are used as biomass energy to heat water, then wood will heat the water the most.

Materials

  • .5 Kg of wood chips.

  • .5 Kg of peat moss

  • .5 Kg of grass

  • Large Pot

  • 3 L of water

  • 1 fireplace

  • 1 lighter

  • 1 thermometer

  • 1 notebook to record data

  • 1 grill that can be placed over the fire

  • 4 aluminium trays

  • Heat resistant gloves

  • Timer

Procedures

  1. Make sure that the fire place is clean and empty.

  2. Place the aluminium tray in the fireplace.

  3. Fill another aluminum tray with 1 L of water.

  4. Measure the temperature of the water.

  5. Add the wood chips into the tray that is empty.

  6. Place the grill on top of the tray.

  7. Place the tray with water on top of the grill.

  8. Using the lighter, start a fire in the tray without water.

  9. Time for 12.5 minutes and measure the temperature of the water every 15 seconds.

  10. Record the data.

  11. After 12.5 minutes are over, use the heat resistant gloves to grab the tray and pour out the water.

  12. Repeat steps 3-11 again, but use the peat moss instead of the wood chips

  13. Repeat steps 3-11 another time, but use grass instead of wood chips.

Data

Click the picture.

Observations

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Graphs

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Calculations and Statistical Analysis

The spreadsheet is under data.


By looking at the p-value of 0.0008, we can see that there is a statistical difference between the groups. This shows that it is not just random chance that caused the results. The independent variable of different types of biomass had an effect on the temperature of water when burned.

Analysis

Claim- Wood is a more efficient source of biomass than grass and peat moss.

Evidence- The wood burned the hottest of the three materials used in the experiment. The hotter temperature shows that more energy was transferred from the burning biomass to the water. The energy causes the water to rise in temperature. The more energy there is, the more the water temperature will rise. The wood was the most efficient source of biomass tested because it heated the water the most.

Reasoning- The efficiency can be assumed by rise in temperature because it requires energy to increase the temperature. This happens on a molecular level where the energy released excites the atoms and makes them move faster. This causes an increase in heat. With this principle, we can assume that the higher the temperature went, the more energy was used to get it there. This shows how there is more energy released by the wood. This could have occurred because of the structure of wood. Not only is wood made up of bark, it also contains lots of hydrogen and oxygen inside of it. This allows for the wood to burn well. The hydrogen and oxygen can fuel a fire more that allows for it to burn hotter and longer than most other forms of biomass.

Conclusion

The hypothesis was supported. It stated that wood would heat the water the most. This was supported by the data. The wood burned the hottest. The purpose of this experiment was not completely achieved. This experiment put us ahead on the path to getting renewable energy for use, but it did not completely solve for renewable energy.

Sources Of Error

One source or error could have have derived from the grass used in the experiment. The grass was not dried out. It still contained water. This could have lead to inaccurate results because the mass of the grass changed because of the water. The grass also burned longer because of the water. If the grass was dry it should have burned a lot faster because there would not be any water to slow down the burning rate of the grass.


Another source of error could be be the thermometer that was used. The thermometer was not digital so the temperature had to be rounded to the nearest whole number when collecting data. This can skew data a bit, but since the overall trend is what is being observed, this should not have that big of an impact.

Improvement

The experimental design can be improved in many ways. There are two ways that this experiment can be improved. The first way encompasses physical change to the experiment, whereas the second way encompasses changes in the idea of the experiment.


There are many things that could be physically changed. For example the lighter may have not been a good idea because it is powered by natural gas so fossil fuels are still being used. The lighter could be replaced by something like flint and steel to allow for the use of fire without fossil fuels. The peat moss and the grass were too similar in structure and one could have been switched around with something else.


The fundamental basics of the experiment could have been changed too. Instead of measuring the amount of energy generated, the amount of pollution released could have been measured. The amount of time spent burning could have been increased as well.


Further investigations on this topic could be about what biomass produced the least pollution and on conditions that cause current biomass plants to be inefficient and what can make them more efficient.

Application

This experiment is just a starting point to transform our world from a fossil fuel burning society to a society powered only by green energy. Biomass is cheap, renewable, and can be burned for a lot of energy. We must act now in order to stop global warming. If we dont act now we will all sucumb to the harmful effects of global warming. Renewable energy is a great solution to the problem. Things like biomass can be grown in a very short timeframe. This allows for a sustainable fuel solution to the fossil fuels used in the modern day. The data collected will be able to put us in the path of a real sustainable solution. It will represent source of biomass is the most efficient. This will allow for us to produce more energy at a lower cost. This experiment allowed for the gates of biomass energy to be opened slightly further. It put us in the right direction to fixing issues in our world today.. The more people that see this experiment, the more people there will be that want to make a real change in this world.


Bibliography

"Biomass." Environmental Encyclopedia. Gale, 2011. Science in Context. Web. 29 Sep. 2014.


"Biomass Fuels."Plant Sciences. Ed. Richard Robinson. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. Science in Context. Web. 29 Sep. 2014.


"The Energy Story - Chapter 10: Biomass Energy." The Energy Story - Chapter 10: Biomass Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sep. 2014.


"How Biomass Energy Works." Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sep. 2014.


Thomas, Isabel. The Pros and Cons of Biomass Power. New York: Rosen Central, 2008. Print.