Biomass is plant or animal matter (biodegradable fraction of products, waste, and residues from agriculture, including vegetable and animal substances) used for energy production (electricity or heat), or in various industrial processes as a raw substance for a range of products.
Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. Plants absorb the sun’s energy in a process called photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy in biomass is released as heat. Biomass can be burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels or biogas that can be burned as fuels.
Biomass energy, or bioenergy, is energy produced by the conversion of biomass directly to heat, or to a liquid or gas that can be converted to energy. Biomass energycan be produced by any material of organic-vegetable origin (trees, plants, farming or industrial waste, urban waste). Biomass energy is regarded as more of a valid resource for the environment than an answer to the energy shortage. As such the growth and informed use of the large quantities of vegetation across the world can contribute to improving the ecosystem through a greater level of carbon dioxide absorption.
The use of plants fuelled by biomass energy makes it possible to complete the so-called “carbon cycle”: the amount of carbon emitted through their use is the same as the amount absorbed by the plants to produce the same quantity of biomass. The process cycles fuelled by biomass generate bio-combustible subproducts such as bio-oil and methane gas. Elements that can be used to produce electricity and heat. Another economical electricity-producing technology is the direct combustion of dry biomass. Rather than developing new plants, this can take place in existing plants for a smaller investment.
Biofuel (biomass fuel)
Biomass fuels are exclusively combustion fuels and when they are burnt they generate carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere in exactly the same way as fossil fuel would generate carbon dioxide. Biomass fuel is biomass converted directly to energy or converted to liquid or gaseous fuels such as ethanol, methanol, methane, and hydrogen.
Gasification (biomass gasification)
Biomass gasification is the thermal conversion process of biomass into a gas, by bio-gasification or thermal gasification, where solid fuel is transformed into a fuel gas (producer gas) with a gasifying agent (air, steam, etc.). In the latter, hydrogen is produced from high-temperature gasifying and low-temperature pyrolysis of biomass. The produced gas is normally a mixture of N2, H2, CO, CO2, H2O, CH4 and light hydrocarbons whose use in advanced applications is hindered by the presence of contaminants such as tar, ammonia and particulates.
- Biomass explained. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/
- How to Boost Plant Biomass: NYU Biologists Uncover Molecular Link Between Nutrient Availability and Plant Growth Rates. https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2020/may/how-to-boost-plant-biomass.html