Plant biomass has a low energy density (MJ kg–1) in comparison with fossil fuels. In specific, maize kernels for starch, sugarcane shoots for sucrose, and switchgrass...
Biomass conversion into fuelsLast Updated on 2011-12-13 00:00:00
Biomass, a source of renewable energy, is organic biological material such as wood, wood waste, municipal solid waste, straw, sugar cane, algae, and many other byproducts derived from agricultural and forestry production as well as other sources. Since biomass derives from plants generated by solar energy in the photosynthesis process it can also be defined as the biological material on Earth that has stored solar energy in the chemical bonds of the organic material.
The fossil fuels (coal, petroleum crude oil and natural gas) are currently thought to have been formed from prehistoric, ancient biomass buried deeply underground over millions of years of geological time. Therefore, they are not considered to be renewable sources of energy.
Production of fuels and other products from biomass
Biomass fuel for electric power production
The direct... More »
Cellulosic biofuelsLast Updated on 2011-06-06 00:00:00
Cellulosic biofuels are fuels produced from cellulose (fibrous material) derived from renewable biomass.
This article was derived from Congressional Research Service Report RL34738 by Kelsi Bracmort, Randy Schnepf, Megan Stubbs, and Brent D. Yacobucci, January 13, 2011
Cellulosic biofuels are thought by many to hold the key to increased benefits from renewable biofuels because they are made from potentially low-cost, diverse, non-food feedstocks.
Cellulosic biofuels could also potentially decrease the fossil energy required to produce ethanol, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Cellulosic biofuels are produced on a very small scale at this time—significant hurdles must be overcome before commercial-scale production can occur.
In the United States, the renewable fuels standard (RFS), a major federal incentive, mandates a... More »
Algae Might Replace Some U.S. Oil ImportsLast Updated on 2011-04-13 00:00:00?Main Image: A June 2010 photo shows raceway ponds in Southern California was taken by the QuickBird satellite. A PNNL study shows that 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil for transportation could be replaced by biofuel made from algae grown in outdoor raceway ponds located in the Gulf Coast, the Southeastern Seaboard and the Great Lakes. Credit: PNNL.
Study: Algae could replace
17% of U.S. oil imports
Choosing optimal growing locations limits algal biofuel’s water use
High oil prices and environmental and economic security concerns have triggered interest in using algae-derived oils as an alternative to fossil fuels. But growing algae — or any other biofuel source — can require a lot of water.
However, a new study shows that being smart about where we grow algae can drastically reduce how much water is needed for algal biofuel. Growing... More »
Fuels From an Ancient CropLast Updated on 2011-02-10 00:00:00
?Main Image: Chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng (right) and mechanical engineer Neil Goldberg (center) adjust pyrolysis process conditions while chemist Charles Mullen (left) loads the reactor with bioenergy feedstock. Source: USDA.
New Fuels From an Ancient Crop
Barley has been cultivated for thousands of years, yet it doesn’t always make the list when energy experts discuss potential biofuel crops. And bio-oil—a liquid fuel generated when heat breaks down plant matter—is still a low-profile energy alternative. But research by Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, could give a big boost to producing bio-oil from barley feedstocks.
As a renewable transportation fuel, bio-oil made from barley byproducts—or any other biofeedstock—has several advantages. The fuel... More »
Changing Plant Characteristics to Make BiofuelsLast Updated on 2011-02-09 00:00:00
A Predictable Change
A new technique can change a
plant's characteristics to make biofuels.
A core objective of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's BioEnergy Science Center is to find ways to wring more energy out of the sugars stored in plants. In addition to developing better enzymes, improved microbes and more effective catalysts, Gerald Tuskan's team of plant biologists is exploring ways to generate more energy from biomass by "persuading" plants to store more sugar and then developing new methods of extracting these sugars.
Most of the sugar found in biomass is stored in plant cell walls as cellulose and hemicellulose. The biggest roadblock to extracting sugar from these cell wall polymers has been the difficulty of using biochemical tools to break down the walls. Tuskan, a scientist in ORNL's BioSciences Division, is working with a dozen Oak... More »
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