Plant-derived fuels and other renewable energy sources can reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and enhance the associated economic impacts which lessening the environmental footprints. Fully understanding the sustainability of an alternative energy, or other, technology requires an in-depth assessment of the system’s inputs and outputs.
Bioenergy can be produced directly from crops or by utilizing organic wastes. In Ohio, ethanol is produced primarily from corn grain, but efforts are underway to improve the efficiency of using lignocellulosic materials, such as corn stalks and leaves. Biodiesel is typically produced from soybean oil, although used cooking oil may also be used. Anaerobic digestion, a microbial process, converts organic wastes, such as livestock manure and food scraps, to biogas, a mixture of methane (~65%) and carbon dioxide (~35%) that can be used directly for heating or electricity generation or cleaned to pipeline quality natural gas.
Just because it works in the lab doesn’t mean it will solve a problem in real life. An integrated evaluation of the inputs and outputs related to a new product or process is critical to determining its economic and environmental impacts. Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) evaluates the technical performance, and economic viability that could affect scale-up. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) determines the direct and indirect environmental impacts of the product, including processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, and end of life.
BioSystems Analysis Lab: https://bsal.osu.edu/
More information coming soon...