To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.chemeurope.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
Biomass refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Most commonly, biomass refers to plant matter grown for use as biofuel, but it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibres, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.
Biomass is grown from several plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow and sugarcane. The particular plant used is usually not very important to the end products, but it does affect the processing of the raw material. Production of biomass is a growing industry as interest in sustainable fuel sources is growing.
Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been "out" of the carbon cycle for a very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.
Plastics from biomass, like some recently developed to dissolve in seawater, are made the same way as petroleum-based plastics, are actually cheaper to manufacture and meet or exceed most performance standards. But they lack the same water resistance or longevity as conventional plastics.
Additional recommended knowledge
Processing and uses
Biomass which is not simply burned as fuel may be processed in other ways.
Low tech processes include:
More high-tech processes are:
Burning biomass, or the fuel products produced from it, may be used for heat or electricity production.
Other uses of biomass, besides fuel and compost include:
Biomass is part of the carbon cycle. Carbon from the atmosphere is converted into biological matter by photosynthesis. On decay or combustion the carbon goes back into the atmosphere or soil. This happens over a relatively short timescale and plant matter used as a fuel can be constantly replaced by planting for new growth. Therefore a reasonably stable level of atmospheric carbon results from its use as a fuel. It is commonly accepted that the amount of carbon stored in biomass is approximately 50% of the biomass by weight.
Though biomass is a renewable fuel, and is sometimes called a "carbon neutral" fuel, its use can still contribute to global warming. This happens when the natural carbon equilibrium is disturbed; for example by deforestation or urbanization of green sites. These activities are termed "carbon leakage".
Despite harvesting, biomass crops may sequester (trap) carbon. So for example soil organic carbon has been observed to be greater in switchgrass stands than in cultivated cropland soil, especially at depths below 12 inches. The grass sequesters the carbon in its increased root biomass. But the perennial grass may need to be allowed to grow for several years before increases are measurable.
Biomass production for human use and consumption
Source: Whittaker, R. H.; Likens, G. E. (1975). "The Biosphere and Man", in Leith, H. & Whittaker, R. H.: Primary Productivity of the Biosphere. Springer-Verlag, 305-328. ISBN 0-3870-7083-4. ; Ecological Studies Vol 14 (Berlin)
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Biomass". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|