Biomass is a versatile energy source. Organic matter that is used as a source of biomass energy includes trees, timber waste, wood chips, corn, rice hulls, peanut shells, sugar cane, grass cuttings, leaves, manure, sewage, and municipal solid waste.

The Theory of Biomass Energy

Biomass is made up mainly of the elements carbon and hydrogen; we use technology to free the energy bound up in these chemical compounds.

There are several ways of capturing the stored chemical energy in biomass:

Direct Combustion is the burning of material by direct heat and is the simplest biomass technology and may be very economical if the biomass source is nearby.

Pyrolysis is the thermal degradation of biomass by heat in the absence of oxygen. Biomass is heated to a temperature between 400 and 750°C, but no oxygen is introduced to support combustion resulting in the creation of gas, fuel oil and charcoal.

Anaerobic Digestion converts organic matter to a mixture of methane, the major component of natural gas, and carbon dioxide. Biomass such as waterwaste (sewage), manure, or food processing waste, is mixed with water and fed into a digester tank without air.

Gasification biomass can be used to produce methane through heating or anaerobic digestion. Syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, can be derived from biomass.

Alcohol Fermentation fuel alcohol is produced by converting starch to sugar, fermenting the sugar to alcohol, then separating the alcohol water mixture by distillation. Feedstocks such as wheat, barley, potatoes, and waste paper, sawdust, and straw containing sugar, starch, or cellulose can be converted to alcohol by fermentation with yeast.

Landfill Gas is generated by the decay (anaerobic digestion) of buried garbage in landfills. When the organic waste decomposes, it generates gas consisting of approximately 50% methane, the major component of natural gas.

Congeneration is the simultaneous production of more than one form of energy using a single fuel and facility. Biomass cogeneration has more potential growth than biomass generation alone because cogeneration produces both heat and electricity.

Read More: Applications of Biomass

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