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Sources of Energy

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Biomass refers to those living and non living organic materials that can be used as sources of energy in the form of fuel. Some examples of biomass fuels are wood, crops, and organic garbage. The chemical energy in biomass is released as heat on burning.

Biomass can also be converted to other usable forms of energy such as methane gas or transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. It is a renewable source of energy.

Wood as biomass 

The most common form of biomass is wood. For thousands of years people have burned wood for heating and cooking. Until the mid-1800s, wood was the main source of energy in the world. It still continues to be a major source of energy in most of the developing countries. Many manufacturing plants in the wood and paper products industry use wood waste to produce their own steam and electricity.

Municipal solid waste as biomass

Garbage is another source of biomass. This is also called municipal solid waste (MSW). MSW includes food scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, etc. These are also called biomass trash.


Gas made from the anaerobic digestion of agricultural and animal waste is called biogas. When this biomass (agriculture and animal waste) is decomposed in the absence of oxygen, it releases biogas.

In India, biogas is commonly known as “gobar gas”. Biogas is a mixture of methane (75%) and CO2. It is used for cooking, lighting of lamps, generating electricity, etc. In “landfills”, biomass rots and releases methane gas through the process of biodegradation.

Biodegradation is the process of biological degradation of organic matter by bacteria and fungi.

Biogas production

Biogas technology provides an alternate source of energy in rural India. It is a more efficient and developed form of fuel.

It uses a thick mixture of cattle waste and kitchen garbage. This is fed into an inlet chamber. The micro organisms present in the digester tank are mainly methanogens.

These methanogens decompose the organic waste (slurry) anaerobically to produce methane and some carbon dioxide. This process is called biodegradation.


Biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are fuels that are made from biomass materials. These are used in transport vehicles. These fuels are usually blended with petroleum fuels such as gasoline and diesel.


Biodiesel is a domestic renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils such as soybean oil. It is typically produced by the reaction of a vegetable oil, or animal fat with an alcohol such as methanol or ethanol in the presence of a catalyst to yield mono-alkyl esters and glycerine. Glycerine is removed from the biodiesel.

Biodiesel fuel can be used in diesel engines without making any modifications to the engine. It is a safe, renewable, and biodegradable fuel that produces fewer polluting emissions.

We are familiar with the term energy. Everyd...

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