Biomass Research Essay

Submitted By kwren10
Words: 938
Pages: 4

With the rising cost of gasoline today, and the worry of global warming contributed by carbon dioxide emissions, biofuels are becoming increasingly popular with companies and other manufacturers. In ancient times, the gasoline and diesel we know today were biofuels, however. We obtain those gases by drilling in the ground for decomposed animals and plants (the main components in our current day fossil fuels). Instead, Biofuels are obtained by the plants and animals of today’s world. Even though there are many ways to make this “new” breed of fuel, most are made through chemical reaction, fermentation, and heat. These molecules break down to the leftover products that we can use to fuel today’s cars and machinery.

There is a significant need for biofuels in today’s market places. Governments are now mandating renewable fuel sources pushing a cause in demand. Back in 2007, former President Bush signed the Renewable Fuels Standard, which is calling for “at least 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels to be used nationwide by 2022, including a minimum of 9 billion gallons in 2008, and 20.5 billion gallons by 2015.” There is an obvious rush for energy companies to come up with a productive way to satisfy the needs of consumers.

The first forms of research being put into biofuels surrounded thoughts of tree and plant (especially sugar cane) glucose cellulite. Scientists are seeking to restore and recover cellulose that is found in tree and plant materials. It is then taken out of these plants and materials and transformed to glucose, which is easily converted into ethanol. The main issue with this approach is that this only works on a specific material. Since plants are made up of different compositions than each other, a different process will have to be tested for a different species of plant.

Although it is a smart idea to use what we have in the world today to help run our technologies instead of cutting into valuable reserves, there are disadvantages of the process to make first generation biofuels. According to National Geographic, the negatives should be closely examined before jumping into an immediate switch, “The process of growing the crops, making fertilizers and pesticides, and processing the plants into fuel consumes a lot of energy. It's so much energy that there is debate about whether ethanol from corn actually provides more energy than is required to grow and process it. Also, because much of the energy used in production comes from coal and natural gas, biofuels don't replace as much oil as they use.” This raises a question if the biofuels are really worth the energy and time being put into them. There are currently being tests done on the cellulose of a plant’s cell wall. This could lead to more efficient biofuels, but only time will tell.

The second, and more profound, idea that is currently being test for use of making biofuels is the idea of thermochemical technologies. Any material (unlike the last form of research) can be heated to the point that the carbon rich materials convert into gas, and then oxygen and steam are used to purify the gas agent. There are currently very few companies using gas purification technologies. However, it is emerging as the best way to transform matter into a gas substance. In its January report called "Smart Choices for Biofuels,” The Sierra Club recognizes the advantage of thermochemical technologies: "These technologies can be used to convert almost any kind of biomass into fuel . . . giving them a potential advantage over biochemical technologies that rely on developing specific enzymes to break down specific plant matter." This seems to be the best idea of a technology that needs to be invested in for a company attempting to develop biofuel alternative research.

The first generation biofuels manufacturing costs are relatively high due to the