Fungi Can Boost Biomass Heating in Going 'Green'

Since the creation of fire, many people have used its burning capabilities as a means of warmth in colder weather. Presently, the notion of burning wood and other biomass as a source of heat has popularly transition into an alternative for utilizing fossil fuels. The ACS journal - Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, has reported that scientist have discovered a 'greener' method to produce heat through biomass. Instead of burning the biomass, which releases harmful pollutants, they are allowing fungi to break down the biomass naturally in which releases heat.

Natural Biomass

The main benefit of biomass is that there is no shortage of the material - there will always be animal waste and plant compost. Additionally, it is continuously produced in massive amounts as waste products from agricultural and paper companies. However, when this waste is burned it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and microscopic particles that are linked to health as well as environmental issues. Thus, scientist have been long since attempting to discover an alternate method of utilizing biomass with little to no emissions. One approach utilized microorganisms that can degrade the material. This process produced heat without emitting VOCs or microscopic particles. However, this heat has only be able to be produced in room-temperature conditions. If this method is to be sustainably utilized, the reaction would have to be able to successfully occur in temperatures way above ambient conditions.

In order to attain just that, the researchers began testing two fungi species Chaetomium Thermophilum and Phanerochaete Chrysosporium that thrive in extremely hot climates. They incubated each fungi species with chunks of birch wood in its natural biota condition or sterile. Chaetomium Thermophilum produced the maximum amount of heat, 0.63 watts, as they broke down the wood through its microbial inhabitants. Researchers explain that this is one small step forward, as now, they need to determine the optimal moisture, nutrients, temperature, and parameters to increase the production of 6 W/kg to generate enough power to heat an average size home.