Biorenewable Resources, Engineering New Products from Agriculture

By Joost, Richard E. | NACTA Journal, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Biorenewable Resources, Engineering New Products from Agriculture


Joost, Richard E., NACTA Journal


Biorenewable Resources, Engineering New Products from Agriculture By Robert C. Brown, Iowa State Press, 2003, 286 pages, hardback $74.99

Biorenewable resources represent a major growth area for agriculture. In addition to the economic benefits of using renewable resources instead of non-renewable fossil fuels for industrial feedstocks, tremendous environmental benefits can be realized. Although most of the development in biorenewable technology has come in the area of biomass conversion for energy, a great deal of opportunity exists in the use of industrially important feedstocks from biological sources.

As the first textbook covering the topic of biobased product engineering, this book provides an excellent review of related foundational topics. The review of the chemistry of biologically important structural organic compounds is excellent and would be very useful in any agricultural chemistry course. The discussion of thermodynamics is presented in an understandable manner that is useful in later chapters devoted to the conversion of biomass to useable energy. The author also provides an excellent discussion of the use of biomass crops in various engine types as well as their conversion to liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

The treatment of crop production in this text is somewhat superficial and adds little to the overall utility of the text. The author does provide an overview of various types of equipment that are used in crop production, but this work would not suffer if this chapter were eliminated. The focus of the section on products is definitely in the area of biomass used for energy, although the text in this section provides a useful, although not exhaustive catalog of industrially important chemicals derived from both renewable and non-renewable sources.

Biorenewable Resources shines in its treatment of the conversion of biorenewable crops into energy and industrially useful products and the economic impact of renewable resource utilization both from an environmental impact as well as a purely economic perspective. The author provides useful flow charts of all major conversion processes employed to utilize renewable resources while text discussion of these processes is presented in a manner easily understood by non-engineers. …

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