The term biomass generally refers to a collection of animal or plant organisms present in a certain quantity in a given environment such as aquatic or terrestrial (biodegradable fraction of products, waste, and residues from agriculture, including vegetable and animal substances) used for energy production (electricity or heat), or in various industrial processes as a raw substance for a range of products. The concept of biomass is often developed and treated differently in the literature depending on the context in which it is placed. Biomasses are particularly important in two different fields: ecological and renewable energy, where they represent a source of energy of biotic origin.

Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. Plants absorb the sun’s energy in a process called photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy in biomass is released as heat. Biomass can be burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels or biogas that can be burned as fuels.

Biomasses are therefore, in addition to the essences cultivated specifically for energy purposes, all products of agricultural crops and forestry, including residues from agriculture and forestry, waste from agro-food products for human consumption or animal husbandry, residues, not chemically treated, of the woodworking and paper industry, all organic products resulting from the biological activity of animals and humans, such as those contained in municipal waste (the “organic fraction” of waste).

In the most general sense, therefore, we can consider Biomass all material of organic origin, both plant and animal, but to better outline this sector we can consider the three main supply chains that represent it:

  • Wood chain
  • Agricultural chain
  • Waste and scrap chain

To exemplify some types of biomass, among the most common, we can mention: solid, liquid or gaseous fuels derived from these materials (either directly or as a result of transformation processes) are defined as biofuels, while any form of energy obtained through biomass conversion processes is defined as bio-energy.

The use of biomass has a great variability depending on the types of materials available and, over time, many energy conversion technologies have been developed, some of which can be considered at a level of development that allows their use on an industrial scale, others, however, more recent and very complex, need further experimentation in order to increase yields and reduce energy conversion costs.

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