• Question: how can biomass be used to fuel engines?

    Asked by bobsyouruncle to Michael on 20 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Michael Nolan

      Michael Nolan answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Hi Bob’s uncle…

      Biomass itself is not used directly, instead you can convert it into useful fuels using catalysis. There you take the feedstock and do chemistry over a catalyst to generate, say, CO2 and Hydrogen (called syn gas) which can then be used to make methanol (CH3OH) which is a great fuel, or ethanol.
      You might also get CO and water which can be transformed into CO2 (a feedstock) and hydrogen for fuel cells.
      So biomass is a bit like oil – you have to use it as a starting point to obtain the fuels you want.
      But it is easier to produce and process and more sustainable. We are starting a big European Union funded project next week to work on this topic!