Home > Energy > New and Renewable Energy > Biomass Energy


Biomass Energy

Biomass is any organic matter—wood, crops, seaweed, animal wastes—that can be used as an energy source. Biomass energy technology is the utilisation of these matters to produce energy. The chemical energy that is stored in plants or in the animal waste is called bio-energy.

All organic matter contains stored energy from the sun. During a process called photosynthesis, sunlight gives plants the energy they need to convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugars. These sugars, called carbohydrates, supply plants and the animals that eat plants with energy.

Burning of the biomass will release the energy in the form of heat, which is then used to turn a generator to produce electricity. With the advance in technologies, several alternatives and perhaps more efficient energy conversion processes, such as gasification, and anaerobic digestion are used.

Biomass is a renewable energy source because its supplies are not limited. We can always grow trees and crops, and animal waste will always be there.

Using Biomass Energy

Usually, wood is burned to make heat. Burning is not the only way to use biomass energy, though. There are now four ways to release the energy stored in biomass: burning, bacterial decay, fermentation, and conversion to gas/liquid fuel.

  • Burning: Burning of the biomass will release the energy in the form of heat to produce steam, which is then used to turn a generator to produce electricity.
  • Bacterial Decay: Bacteria feed on dead plants and animals, producing methane. Methane is produced whenever organic material decays. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. Many landfills are recovering and using the methane gas produced by the decay of garbage.
  • Fermentation: There are several types of processes that can produce alcohol (ethanol) from plants, especially corn. The most common process involves using yeast to ferment the starch in the plant to produce ethanol.
  • Conversion: Today, biomass can be converted into gas and liquid fuels by heating or adding chemicals to the biomass. The gas and liquid fuels can then be burned to produce heat or electricity, or it can be used as a fuel for automobiles.
New and Renewable Energy
Solar Energy Solar Thermal Energy Solar Photovoltaic Wind Energy
Biomass Energy Waste to Energy Hydro Energy Tidal Energy
Wave Energy Marine Current Energy Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) Geothermal Energy
Hydrogen Hydrogen Economy Fuel Cells Fusion Energy