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Home » Biology Homework Help » Biotechnology » Biomass Utilization Modes
Biomass Utilization Modes
The biomass may be available in the form of wood, sugars, starch, hydrocarbons, crop residues or organic wastes. The use of biomass may be by (i) direct burning to generate heat, e.g. for cooking of food, (ii) thermo-chemical conversion by pyrolysis (to yield coal from wood) or gasification (to generate synthesis gas) or (iii) biological conversion. the biological conversions include, anaerobic, digestion to yield methane (CH4) and possibly hydrogen (H2), and fermentation to produce ethanol or butanol. The biomass/biofuels are used to generate heat, or to drive steam/internal combustion engines to generate mechanical/electrical energy.

In general, the biomass is much less-energy dense and hence very bulky as compared to the fossil fuels. Conversion of the biomass into liquid or gaseous biofuels makes them more energy dense, reduces their bulk and renders their handling and controlled manipulation more convenient. Yet a large proportion of the wood (about 50%) harvested each year is used by direct use of biomass suffers from several disadvantages, such as, (i) low efficiency due to a large energy loss on burning, (ii) high moisture content of biomass makes it biodegradable and difficult to store, which necessitates its drying, (iii) the low bulk density of biomass makes it necessary to use huge equipments for burning, storage, transport, handling etc. (iv) the material is usually heterogeneous, and is not free-flowing which makes regulated and especially, automated feeding of combustion plants practically impossible.

The bioconversion of biomass into biofuels removes most of the difficulties and, therefore, offers a means of obtaining fuels to partly or fully replace the fossil fuels.

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