Global warming, climate changes, ozone depletion, venomous atmosphere... gradually screwing up the quintessential balance of Mother Nature...isn’t it a gruesomely high price we are paying for the fast paced development?? Continuing the same way ultimately we’ll end up sharing the same fate as a spider, ‘Stuck in our own cobweb’.
But there is a way behind, which was forgotten earlier lured by easily accessible but non-renewable energy sources, the way to our roots, the way back to life i.e. ‘Bio’.
Witnessing the scarcity of non-renewable energy sources and simultaneously enduring the deadly by-products like green house gases, now the world is headed towards the clean and green ‘Bio fuel’.
What is Biofuel?
Envisioned as future fuel by many environmentalists, Biofuel also known as agro fuel, mark its origin to the live biomass. ‘Bio mass’, a source of Bio energy includes organic matter like agricultural or food residues, wood, living organisms, industrial wastes, solid wastes and other organic substances like algae, sewage which can either be burned to produce or heat or can be chemically treated to derive energy. Some crops eg. Jatropha are exclusively grown for this purpose.
Bio fuel is a promising alternative to unclean fuels like gasoline and diesel, which have almost roofed the earth with a blanket of hazardous green house gases. In addition to being a potential threat to Mother Nature, these fossil fuels are limited in availability and cannot be replenished. Vehicular pollution is the main source of carbon dioxide in atmosphere and thus owes a bigger part to global warming. Also, the number of vehicles on roads is increasing exponentially. In such tricky scenario, bio fuel is being looked as a saviour especially in transportation sector.
History: Old is Gold.
Bio fuel is not some recent invention, invented to deal with the looming threat of extinction of fossil fuels. It’s only that we have realised its importance standing at the verge of great crisis. Wood, a solid bio fuel has been used since ancient times. Initially, Diesel engine designed by Rudolf diesel used peanut oil as fuel. A German named Nikolaus August Otto, was among the first few inventors who realised the potential of ethanol. Ethanol, a liquid bio fuel was used to fuel Henry Ford’s Model Ts from 1903 to 1926. During World War II, use of bio fuel was encouraged as an alternative for imported fuel. This was the period when Germany, Britain experiencing shortage of fuel, conceptualised the use of grain alcohol mixed with gasoline. But following the discovery of fossil fuels, they outshone the less efficient and more expensive Bio fuel. Huge deposits of crude oil were enough alluring to forget the cleaner Bio fuel.
Although, diesel and gasoline were also derived from biomass, but they cannot be considered as renewable because they resulted from decomposed plants and animals buried in ground for millions of years. In contrast, bio fuel used today is obtained from now growing plants.
Contemporary rise in oil prices, budding concerns about carbon dioxide emissions, scarcity of non renewable resources are some good reasons to turn to the Old, that is indeed Gold.
The Energy Behind!!
This is yet another marvel of the supreme energy source of the planet, i.e. The Sun. With the help of ‘Photosynthesis’ sunlight converts water and atmospheric carbon dioxide to complex carbohydrates (sugar). The solar energy gets stored in the chemical bonds of these complex sugar molecules. The sugar molecules can be simple, complex (Starch), highly complex polymers (Cellulose) depending on the variety of plant.
Cellulose, Hemi-cellulose and lignin form the chemical composition of Biomass. Thus, when we efficiently burn any form of biomass, the stored solar energy in chemical bond is released, with carbon dioxide as a by product. This makes the process cyclic, as carbon dioxide is available to act as input again.