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Biomass 101: What is it?


Confused about biomass? Think plants! Yes, plants and plant-derived material is what it’s all about—and harnessing all that energy captured by photosynthesis. The beauty of biomass is in the net zero greenhouse gas: Did you know that the carbon dioxide that is released upon the burning of biomass is in turn captured when the biomass is grown?

Nature at its Simple Best

Although biomass is a term often used interchangeably with biofuels, there’s more to the story: Biomass makes use of a diverse mix of resources, predominantly plant fibers, but is actually divided into three main categories:

  • Biofuels
  • Biopower
  • Bioproducts

Biofuels are derived from biomass: ethanol and biodiesel. These are fuels that able to be grown and produced from plants, and since they can be regrown year after year, are also called renewable fuels.

Biopower is electrical generation from biomass resources such as forest products, agricultural residues and landfill gas. In the United States biomass is the single largest source of non-hydro renewable electricity

Carpet From Corn?

Bioproducts are created from plant or crop based resources, including agricultural crops and crops residues. Products that are now made from petro chemicals can also be made from renewable biomass since the basic molecules in petrochemicals are hydrocarbons.

For example, corn (instead of petroleum) can be used as a base for clothing, carpets and automobile interiors. There are also a wide variety of other bioproducts being manufactured, including textile fibers, polymers, adhesives, lubricants and soy-based inks among others.

As research continues, existing processes will be improved and new developments will utilize even more of the benefits of biomass.

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