What is biofuel? What is it made from and how are we going to integrate it into our day to day lives? Our society is in urgent need of a sustainable source of energy that can replace fossil fuels as we are slowly running out of these.
Biofuel just might be part of our long term solution to this pressing matter because it is a solid replacement for standard fuels. Let us tell you the main things you should know about biofuel so that you can envision how it will be integrated in our future.
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What is biofuel?
The standard definition of biofuel describes it as a renewable source of energy produced from organic matter. It is a fuel produced from biological resources that we have access to on a large scale, which makes it a very promising substitute for fossil fuels.
Current technology makes it possible for us to use a wide range of natural materials, such as wood-based products, agricultural and municipal waste and a multitude of crops, to obtain energy. You can power anything from your car to your computer with green energy developed from the environment.
The total amount of plants and natural materials that can be used to create energy is referred to as biomass. As for the plants that are grown with the specific aim of creating biofuel, they are called lignocellulosic materials.
What is Biofuel made from?
Biofuel is developed from biomass by employing a series of highly effective technologies. Let us tell you about the main types of biological matter that can be used to create power.
Plants are the core material that can be used to obtain biofuel. They can be used in very many ways to develop different types of fuels. Take a look at the main categories of plants that we can use to produce green energy.
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The agriculture industry generates an important amount of residue. But instead of spending money to destroy it, modern day farmers can actually use this type of waste to create green energy to power part of their farm. And it is an excellent way of putting waste to very good use.
The principle is quite simple. By burning the plants, we can create heat, as any person who enjoys camping knows. Then we can use this heat to boil water in a tank. This is important because this way we can create steam, which we can then use to spin a turbine.
Our turbine will thus be able to power a generator that can ultimately create electrical energy. This can then be used to power any electric device you want. The only difference is that producing it is far less harmful to the environment than burning fossil fuels and that we can expect to have access to plants for years and years to come.
Energy crops are grown with the precise aim of being used as power sources. Imagine entire fields of elephant grass or soybean that can be used to create electricity. These are called lignocellulosic materials and they have been carefully selected so that they can generate the best kind of energy with the smallest investment.
Here are the most important criteria that an efficient energy crop needs to meet:
- It must have a rapid growth rate.
- It must have a high photosynthesis rate, in order to be able to generate as much heat as possible.
- It must be resistant to pests and parasites.
- It must be resistant to a wide range of environmental factors.
Wood and Forestry Remains
Wood is one of the most efficient biofuel sources. Certain tree species, such as willows or poplars, can actually be used as energy crops because they meet the most important eligibility criteria mentioned above. However, woody materials are mainly used as energy sources by the forestry industry.
Imagine the amount of waste and remains generated by this industry. Tree bark, wood chippings or sawdust can be used to create energy, which is actually cost efficient for forestry plants. They can create part of the power they need for their equipment by using their waste.
Waste, garbage, trash, rubbish, call it what you will and you will think of one thing only: useless. Each of us throws away an impressive amount of things every single day because we do not need it anymore. This leads to gargantuan quantities of waste that can be harmful to our environment.
But what if we could take all of this rubbish and put it to good use? Well, creating energy from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is one of the best uses available for it today. Burning the MSW generates heat, which can then be used to obtain energy.
The main shortcoming of this method is the fact that it generates a noteworthy amount of emissions that are harmful to the environment. This happens because the MSW includes not only plant-based material but plastic and other petroleum-based items.
This is why recycling is so important to our society. By separating our trash, each of us can contribute to a greener tomorrow because every type of waste can be reused properly. A few minutes can actually make a difference in this situation.
Biogas can be obtained from both animal and plant-based materials. It is generated by the large amount of microorganisms as they feed on decaying plants and waste. This is a natural process that happens all around us. And we can actually use it to our advantage. Here are some of the most important biogas-generators:
Farms produce sizable amounts of animal waste, which can be used to create energy. Current laws actually dictate that this waste be placed into digesters. These are special containers that stimulate the development of the microorganisms, thus creating more gas. The biogas can be collected through a pipeline from the digesters and then be used to create energy.
Landfills are an obsolete method of disposing of our waste. We currently have much better ways of storing it than burying it underground. However, another thing that we do have is a considerable amount of landfills that we need to get rid of.
Collecting the gas from these landfills is the perfect start for this process. By inserting a pipeline inside the landfill, all the gas produced in this confined space can be transferred to processing units where it can be filtered so that it can eventually be used to generate energy.
Both vegetable and animal oil can be used as a prime source of biodiesel. This is extremely important because this type of biofuel is highly compatible with a wide range of internal combustion engines that are currently in use.
What is Biofuel used for?
Biofuel can be used a prime source of energy and heat. Thus, it can be easily integrated into our day to day lives because it is highly accessible. We have listed the main uses of biofuel so that you can visualize the flexibility of this natural resource.
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One of the main ways of generating energy from biomass is combustion. Therefore, heat is actually obtained first in this process. By inserting a hot water pipeline into a building, biomass can be used successfully as a heat source.
Biomass can be used to create electrical energy, which can then be used to power any electrical device. The quality of the energy is impeccable and the entire production process is far less harmful to the environment.
On the other hand, the costs of obtaining energy from biomass are still quite high. But as the importance of biomass energy becomes more and more evident to society, the production process will be perfected and made much more accessible and efficient.
Internal Combustion Engines
Alcoholic biofuels and oil-based biodiesels can be used to power internal combustion engines. These are the main alternatives to petroleum-based fuels. For the time being, these biofuels can be mixed with standard gasoline and utilized for a wide variety of the car engines.
However, certain modifications to current car engine models could expand the use of biofuels by increasing their compatibility.
We hope we have made you curious about biomass energy and biofuels. Take a look at our in-depth article, All you need to know about Biofuel Energy to find out even more about the immense potential of this natural resource, as well as its limitations.
While it has the fundamental advantage of being renewable, biomass energy can generate a considerable amount of pollution and harmful effects on the environment. Nevertheless, when compared those of fossil fuels, these detrimental outcomes appear to be far less important.
What is biofuel able to change in modern day society? In our extended article, you can also read about the socio-economic implications of introducing biofuels at the core of our society. Take a look to find out more about the extent of this pressing issue.