Biomass burning has an overall impact on the atmospheric chemistry as well as the climate. When there is a fire in the savannas, or tropical forests, or like the recent California fire, large quantities of particulate matter and trace gases are released.
Biomass fuel is also known as Bio-fuel. Bio-fuel is defined as liquid, solid or gaseous fuel that consists of biomass. Biomass fuels can be used for generating power and also for heating purposes.
Biomass fuels can help greatly in reducing the various greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time can increase energy security by being an alternative to fossil fuels. Today, you will find expansion of bio-fuel industries in Asia, Europe, and America.
Bio-fuels are most commonly used in automotive transport like the E10 fuel. They can easily be produced from any source containing carbon like plants. Biomass is mostly derived from living organisms, which includes animals, plants, and their by-products. Manure, crop residues and garden waste are some of the different sources of biomass. This is a renewable energy source that is associated to the carbon cycle as compared to various natural resources like coal, petroleum, and nuclear energy.
Some of the most popular agricultural products that are grown for the purpose of creating Bio-fuel in the United States are soybeans and corn while Europe uses wheat, rapeseed and sugar beet; sugar cane is grown in Brazil, Jatropha in India and palm oil in South-East Asia.
In the early part of 2007, Diversified Energy Corporation with the help of North Carolina State University (NCSU) geared itself for a breakthrough in biofuel technology, which has been named Centia. Centia has been positioned for producing military and commercial jet fuel and can even act as a biodiesel additive in cold or freezing weather. The process of developing Centia looks promising and is expected to deliver a high energy efficiency level that can be in excess of 85%.
There are a wide variety of scientific experiments being conducted, globally, to produce a viable bio-fuel that will be efficient and environmentally friendly. Scientists have started to look beyond the bio-fuels and started to work on the various byproducts of bio-fuel that can be used and even consumed as food in our daily lives.
Considered as an integral part of the green revolution, bio-fuels offer quite a few advantages over other fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Bio fuels have the ability to recycle carbon dioxide with every growing season by getting it from the air to convert it into biomass. So unlike coal, which upon burning releases carbon, biomass in a way traps all the carbon that is in the air. This is an important aspect from the point of view of global warming because it doesn’t release any carbon components into the air. The biggest advantage over conventional fuel is that bio-fuel is renewable and hence they will not deplete the limited natural resources of our planet.
Common Biomass Fuels
Here is a list of some of the most common first generation Biomass fuels:
Vegetable oil is used for cooking food and also as a fuel. Vegetable oil is not high quality oil for fuel use but it is still used in older diesel engines, which are equipped with an indirect injection system.
In most of the cases, vegetable oil is used for manufacturing bio-diesel that is compatible with most of the diesel engines. It is normally blended with conventional diesel fuel for optimum efficiency.
Bio-diesel is one of the most common Bio-fuels in Europe. It is produced mainly from fats or oils using the process of trans-esterification. It is a liquid that has a similar composition like that of mineral diesel. The chemical name for bio-diesel is fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).
The oil is mixed with methanol or ethanol and sodium hydroxide, which initiates a chemical reaction to produce glycerol and bio-diesel (FAME). The process produces 1 part of glycerol per 10 parts of bio-diesel.
Bio-diesel is extensively used in diesel engines after it is blended with mineral diesel. Some countries like Germany have manufacturers Volkswagen, who provide a cover on their diesel engines as a part of their warranty for 100% bio-diesel use.
A majority of vehicle manufacturers still limit to use of 15% bio-diesel blended with mineral diesel. In some of the European countries, 5% bio-diesel blend is widely used and even available at gas stations
Ethanol is one of the most common Bio-fuels across the world. It is also known as an alcohol fuel and is produced by fermenting sugars, which are derived from corn, wheat, sugar cane and sugar beet. The various production methods for ethanol are fermentation of the sugars, enzymatic digestion, distillation and drying.
The use of Ethanol has been widely seen in petrol engines where it replaces gasoline. Almost all the petrol engines in the world can run on 15% blends of bio-ethanol with gasoline.
With an eye on the diminishing natural resources, its time for us to usher in the bio-fuel era!