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 Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature
17.08.2018 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Scientists create biodegradable, paper-based biobatteries
08.08.2018 | Binghamton 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: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>