Chapter 13

Biomass

13.1 Introduction

Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia, defines biomass as “all non-fossil material of biological origin”. We will focus almost exclusively on vegetable matter that can lead to the production of useful energy, thus excluding most animal biomass.1

Any biomass-based energy process begins with the capture of sunlight and production of a chemical compound. This complicated step, called photosynthesis, leads basically to glucose. Subsequent biochemical transformations result in the creation of a very large number of compounds, some of great commercial value.

At best, photosynthesis proceeds with efficiencies of less than 8%. By the time the final product is available for consumption, large chunks of energy have ...

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