Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers work to make wood a new energy source

13.03.2009
Is wood the new coal? Researchers at North Carolina State University think so, and they are part of a team working to turn woodchips into a substitute for coal by using a process called torrefaction that is greener, cleaner and more efficient than traditional coal burning.

Environmental organizations have raised concerns for decades about the environmental impact of the burning of fossil fuels – particularly coal – for energy. The combustion of coal contributes to acid rain and air pollution, and has been connected with global warming.

During torrefaction, woodchips go through a machine – almost like an industrial-sized oven – to remove the moisture and toast the biomass. The machine, called a torrefier, changes more than just the appearance of the woody biomass. The chips become physically and chemically altered – through heat in a low-oxygen environment – to make them drier and easier to crush.

The torrefied wood is lighter than the original woodchips but retains 80 percent of the original energy content in one-third the weight. That makes them an ideal feedstock for electric power plants that traditionally use coal to generate energy for businesses and residential neighborhoods.

While the process of torrefaction is nothing new, NC State's particular torrefier machine, called the Autothermic Transportable Torrefaction Machine (ATTM), is field portable and self-heated. Traditional torrefier machines are bulky and immobile, but the ATTM lends itself to field-based operations, which reduces the cost of transporting tons of woody biomass to and from the combustion facilities. The ATTM is also largely self-powered, producing a large energy return while also removing carbon from the atmosphere.

"This process could help us build a bridge to more energy independence," says Chris Hopkins, a doctoral student in forestry at NC State and developer of the torrefier machine.

Woodchips are abundant in North Carolina while coal is all imported from other states. More importantly, woodchips are a carbon neutral source of energy. For a state that spends more than $4 billion a year importing coal, use of torrefied wood could result in an economic windfall.

Hopkins explains that nearly half of the state's forests are not adequately thinned because landowners lack a market for small diameter trees, rotten or unusable trees and logging residue. That land could be producing more valuable wood products if it was managed more effectively, he says.

If woodchips were collected and sold to help fire North Carolina's energy generating plants, the state's tax base could be increased by nearly $400 million a year, Hopkins estimates. Since the torrefier machine is small enough to transport, it could be set up close to forest-clearing operations, making the process even more efficient.

NC State's Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) announced an exclusive license agreement with AgriTech Producers, LLC of Columbia, S.C. to commercialize this technology, called "Carolina Coal." Billy B. Houghteling, director of OTT, says, "This partnership is an example of how NC State contributes to the strengthening of our state and national economy. By partnering with organizations like AgriTech, the university's scientific discoveries move beyond the Belltower and into the marketplace where they can really make a difference."

Caroline Barnhill | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Batteries with better performance and improved safety
23.11.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Researchers take next step toward fusion energy
16.11.2017 | Texas A&M University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles

23.11.2017 | Information Technology

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

23.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>