There are two main movements in Biofuels research:
1) the feasibility, deployment and sizing of FIRST GENERATION technologies,
- densified fuels (pellets, fire-logs)
- combustion (boilers, wood stoves, masonry heaters)
- biodiesel & agricultural based sugar fermentation
These can be commercially found, and markets are established. The R&D involved here lies in understanding the fundamental behavior of different biomass (species, form, composition) as applied to the technology, and an evaluation of the economics, environmental and social impacts.
2) the research and development of new SECOND GENERATION technologies
- catalytic, enzymatic &
- biological upgrading
These require both the understanding of the fundamental behavior of different biomass, and the development and optimization of the processes, equipment and science behind each technology to further its use.
From these processes, a variety of usable sources of energy are harnessed in the form of direct heat, combustible gases and liquids that can be further refined into the types of fuels we are accustomed to seeing and using. Unfortunately, second generation biofuels are not commercial, nor can they be found outside of specialized laboratories like RBH.
Our reliance on Oil goes beyond fuel
Although the title sums it up, the work that is required to fulfill this goal and displace even a fraction of our oil use in industry is quite simply gigantic. So what are we doing here?
- understanding the composition of Alaskan biomass. From a single species wood sample we can get over 300 individual chemicals, most (if not all) of which are not fully described. From bark and leaves/needles we get another 200 and 250 compounds respectively which can be made into:
This area of research has the most promise in discovery of new products, and we are working towards these goals with several partners including industry and academia.