Biomass is solar energy stored over time in organic matter. It is carbon-based and made up of molecules such as hydrogen and oxygen..
Sustainable biomass is the conversion of waste biomass to energy.
Sustainable biomass resources include:
Oil Mallee trees, which can also improve the soil conditions of marginal land by combatting dryland salinity and soil erosion, enriching soils and sequestering carbon.
Algae, which can grow on salty lakes.
Biomass is converted into energy through a range of different technologies.
Direct combustion is still the most common technology. In this method, biomass is burnt to heat water, which in turn generates steam for running a conventional generator.
Gasification is a more advanced technology, where the biomass is combusted in high temperatures with very little oxygen and the complex molecules separate into a cleaner, hydrogen-rich gas, which can be used in a fuel cell or gas turbine.
Biological treatments are used extensively for wet organic matter such as pig manure and sewerage. One such treatment, anaerobic digestion, involves the use of methanogenic bacteria to break up organics and produce methane.
What are Biofuels?
Biofuels are liquid fuels which have been derived from other materials such as waste plant and animal matter. There are two main types of biofuels – bioethanol and biodiesel.
Bioethanol is used as a replacement for gasoline and biodiesel is used as a replacement for diesel.
Biofuels represent an immense growth area around the world and have an important role to play in displacing the types of fuels the world has used in the past.
Humans discovered ethanol not long after they figured out how to put fire to good use. Today, ethanol has many uses: you can drink it – diluted, of course; use it in food and other manufacturing; and blend it with petrol to make a truly sustainable and renewable transport fuel.
Bioethanol - or simply ‘ethanol’ - is an alcohol which is made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant materials by using yeast such as saccharomyces cerevisae.
Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form as a replacement for gasoline, but it is usually blended with gasoline so as to improve vehicle emissions.
Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, created the engine to be powered by peanut and other vegetable oil. That was in the late 1800s before cheaper petroleum-based diesel fuel (petrodiesel) became widely available.
Biodiesel is produced from renewable plant or animal feedstocks containing fatty acids using a process of condensation called transesterification, and are the most common form of biofuel in Europe as a replacement for diesel.
Engine makers altered Rudolph Diesel’s original engine to suit petrodiesel. The ‘transesterification’ process was actually developed in order that the engines be able to use biodiesel again!
Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a blend to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles.