Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Organic Garden


Biomass refers to living and recently dead biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Most commonly, biomass refers to plant matter grown for use as biofuel, but it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibres, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum. It is usually measured by dry weight, and is the total mass of living matter.

The term biomass is useful for plants, where some internal structures may not always be considered living tissue, such as the wood (secondary xylem) of a tree. This biomass became produced from plants that convert sunlight into plant material through photosynthesis.

Sources of biomass energy lead to agricultural crop residues, energy plantations, and municipal and industrial wastes.

Biomass is grown from several plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow and sugarcane.[1] The particular plant used is usually not very important to the end products, but it does affect the processing of the raw material. Production of biomass is a growing industry as interest in sustainable fuel sources is growing.[citation needed]

Though biomass is a renewable fuel, and is sometimes called a "carbon neutral" fuel, its use can still contribute to global warming. This happens when the natural carbon equilibrium is disturbed; for example by deforestation or urbanization of green sites. These activities are termed "carbon leakage".

Biomass is part of the carbon cycle. Carbon from the atmosphere is converted into biological matter by photosynthesis. On decay or combustion the carbon goes back into the atmosphere or soil. This happens over a relatively short timescale and plant matter used as a fuel can be constantly replaced by planting for new growth. Therefore a reasonably stable level of atmospheric carbon results from its use as a fuel. It is commonly accepted that the amount of carbon stored in biomass is approximately 50% of the biomass by weight.[2]

Despite harvesting, biomass crops may sequester (trap) carbon. So for example soil organic carbon has been observed to be greater in switchgrass stands than in cultivated cropland soil, especially at depths below 12 inches.[3] The grass sequesters the carbon in its increased root biomass. But the perennial grass may need to be allowed to grow for several years before increases are measurable.[4]

Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been "out" of the carbon cycle for a very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.

Other uses of biomass, besides fuel:

Building materials
Biodegradable plastics and paper (using cellulose fibres)
In a few decades the fossil energy sources like oil and coal we use nowadays will be exhausted.
To avoid this we either must change our lifestyle and the habit of wasting energy or we have to find other ways to get energy without exploiting the earth.
One way of doing this is getting energy from biomass with the following advantages.

Biomass is very abundant. It can be found on every square meter of the earth as seaweed, trees or dung.

It is easy to convert to a high energy portable fuel such as alcohol or gas.

It is cheap in contrast to the other energy sources.

Biomass production can often mean the restauration of waste land (e.g. deforested areas).

It may also use areas of unused agricultural land and provide jobs in rural communities.

If it is produced on a renewable basis using biomass energy does not result in a net cabon dioxide increase as plants absorb it when they grow.

It is very low in sulphur reducing the production of acid rain.

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