Solid Biomass

Biomass, sometimes known as biomatter can be used to produce biofuel. This fuel can be delivered in many forms, such as biodiesel to fuel modern diesel vehicles and heat to heat water and drive turbines. Biomass comes in many forms, such as waste and crude vegetable and animal oil and fats (lipids), sugar cane residue, wheat chaff, corn cobs and other plant matter. In fact biomass can be defined as any recently living organisms or their metabolic by-products, such as manure from cows.

Though often considered as a member of the solid biomass family, dried compressed peat is not strictly one. 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. It is regarded as a fossil fuel and when burned it adds to the CO2 present in the atmosphere.

Plants partly use photosynthesis to store solar energy, water and CO2 and this matter can be, and is, burnt quite successfully. An advantage of this process is that no net CO2 is released, whereas animal faeces release methane under the influence of anaerobic bacteria. These methods can all be used to generate electricity. Of course electricity is not the only form of energy available by utilizing solid biomass. In some areas corn, sugar beets, cane and grasses are grown specifically to produce biomass fuels, such as biodiesel, ethanol and bagasse (often a by-product of sugar cane cultivation) that can be burned in internal combustion engines or boilers.

Typically biomass is burned to release its stored chemical energy. Research into more efficient methods of converting solid biomass and other fuels into electricity utilizing fuel cells is an area which is ongoing.



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