Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – Biomass – An Overview on Classification, Composition and Characterization (pp. 3-36)

Authors:  (Sonil Nanda, Janusz A. Kozinski and Ajay K. Dalai, Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, Ontario, Canada, and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan S7N 5A9, Canada)
Waste biomasses are promoted in a wide-scale as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by supplying next generation biofuels. The use of biomass, particularly from lignocellulosic residues, is becoming progressively essential as a renewable energy source. Concerns over the exhausting fossil fuel supply, global warming due to excessive fossil fuel combustion and increasing world energy demand are some chief driving factors in using biomass for sustainable fuels. Renewable energy can be recovered from a variety of biomass resources including agricultural and forest residues, energy crops, livestock residues as well as municipal organic waste. Through a variety of pathways including physicochemical, biochemical or thermochemical, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce heat, electricity and fuels. Much attention is being focused on identifying a suitable biomass species that can provide recurring high energy outputs to substitute conventional fossil fuels. The main purpose of this chapter is to discuss different biomass sources along with their composition and properties. Since the biomass system is a broad entity for classification, we present a classification scheme based on biomass efficiency, its origin and source. Moreover, it is important to identify the type of biomass in order to understand its biopolymeric composition of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Nevertheless, the physical and chemical characteristics of biomass determine the conversion process and any imminent process complexity. With this knowledge on the perspective of biomasses and their diversity, this chapter will discuss on their selection and characterization to understand their basic make-up for subsequent conversion and environmentally safe utilization.