Biomass briquettes have been, until now, a source of heat that has been relied upon almost exclusively in developing countries. Now, with ever-increasing interest in making U.S. homes greener, saving energy, and developing ways to address global warming, greater attention is beginning to be focused on ways to make use of biomass briquettes in this country.
Briquettes made from biomass and biopyrolysis coals are regarded as a viable substitute for coal because they are made from natural materials–generally plants and natural waste from animals–and are cheaper than coal in the long run. Various countries are using the products most common and sustainable in their own regions to create their briquettes.
The burning of biomass has for centuries been used in poor rural villages; the production of briquettes simply increases the speed and efficiency of pyrolysis (decomposition brought about by high temperatures and involving the change of chemical composition).
In one region of Tanzania, for example, the indigenous people have taken to turning coconut husks into bio briquettes. These briquettes burn efficiently and leave only a comparatively small amount of residue. In India, many industries use biomass briquettes to produce steam.
In the U.S., several nascent efforts are afoot. Manufacturers have developed machines for homeowners who create their own briquettes out of dried biomass, for example, and the state of Arizona is exploring ways to turn biomass into a source of energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy has funded several projects to examine pyrolysis technology and the potential of producing and utilizing briquettes on a large scale.
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