Humans have used biomass for thousands of years. Biomass is any organic material that has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. Wood is a well-known example of biomass: it can be burned for heat or shaped into building materials. There are many additional types of biomass that can be used to derive fuels, chemicals, and power—such as plants, agricultural and forestry residues, organic components of garbage (municipal solid waste), and algae. This broad diversity of suitable biomass has resulted in increased research and development of technologies to produce fuels, products, and power at an industrial scale. According to the Energy Information Administration, 23% of all renewable energy consumed in the United States was biomass-based in 2014.
The processes that scientists and engineers use to break down biomass into these products vary based on the type of biomass (or feedstock) and its intended end-use.
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