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PinkMonkey Online Study Guide-Biology


9.0 Introduction

Socio-economic development, standard of living, as well as the quality of life of any country largely and primarily depend on the availability and supply of energy. The availability and supply of energy come under great pressure because of increasing demands of the ever-increasing global population. This eventually leads to the problem of energy crisis. This is especially true for the developing countries like India.

At present, the main conventional source of energy used all over the world is the ’fossil fuels’ (i.e. the huge deposits of plant and animal remains accumulated during the geological past and which serve as the main source of energy such as. petroleum (oil), natural gas, coal, derivatives of coal, oil shale, tar sands, etc.). However, fossil fuels are non-renewable and hence their deposits will eventually be exhausted. Therefore, alternative energy sources must be tapped and exploited to their full potential. Solar energy, nuclear energy, energy from tides, energy from wind, and hydroelectric energy are some of the alternative resources. However, one of the major renewable alternative sources is the bioenergy obtained from biomass.

"Bioenergy refers to the various forms of energy (e.g. heat (fire), fuel, oil, biogas (methane), ethanol (alcohol), methanol, charcoal, oil gas, etc. ) generated from the biomass by using simple or complex biotechnological methods."

"Biomass refers to all the living organisms as well as their products and wastes."

"Biofuels are the combustible bodies of plants or combustible products derived from the biomass."

Biofuels are a renewable resource of energy. The primary source of the energy stored in biomass is solar energy which is trapped by green plants during photosynthesis and stored as potential energy in organic molecules.

Biofuels are obtained from the terrestrial biomass ( wood, forest litter etc.), aquatic biomass (algae and water weeds like water hyacinth, Pistia, Salvinia, Azolla, etc. ), various types of organic wastes (agricultural and industrial wastes, municipal and domestic wastes like sewage, garbage, animal drug, wastes from slaughter houses, etc. ). Plants that produce alcohol, oil and petroleum (petro-plants) also are a source of biofuels.

Various methods and technologies which convert biomass into bioenergy fuels fall into two main categories.

(1) The non-biological processes such as (a) direct combustion (b) conversion of biomass into liquid fuels such as fuel oil (e.g. by pyrolysis - a type of fertilization, liquefaction, etc. ) and (c)gassification..

(2) The biological process or bioconversion involves the conversion of biomass into bioenergy, fertilizer, food and chemicals through the biological action of micro-organisms. One of the important biofuels obtained through bio-conversion is natural gas, a biogas (methane).

Table of Contents

9.0 - Introduction
9.1 Common Methods of Biogas Formation
9.2 Raw Materials and Substrates
9.3 Producer Gas
9.4 Methane
9.5 Plants as Sources of Hydrocarbons

Chapter 10


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