Biomass is the oldest and most versatile renewable fuel. It has added benefits, particularly for Hawaii, because farm-grown energy crops can create new agri-businesses, reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, serve as alternatives to more expensive renewable energy resources, and be cleaner because of new burning and cleaning techniques.
HNEI's previous work included assessing the potential of various crops, evaluating various biomass-to-energy technologies, identifying high-value co-products, and developing technologies to produce solid, liquid and gaseous fuels and chemicals from biomass.
A wide variety of research is underway in the Biomass and Fuels Processing Laboratory, including activities in biomass resource assessment, thermochemical conversion of biomass, evaluation of energy conversion and utilization processes, and reforming of transition fuels for the hydrogen economy. In addition, HNEI researchers led the preparation of the Hawaii Bioenergy Master Plan.
The Renewable Resources Research Laboratory (R3Lab) is a test-bed for the development of innovative processes for the conversion of biomass into fuels, high-value chemicals, and other products. A consistent theme of the lab's research throughout its history has been the search for new uses for Hawaii's abundant agricultural crops and by-products. Recently, the R3Lab's research has focused on the efficient carbonization of biomass. Biocarbons are a key ingredient in the production of silicon, and are also used to clean water and cook food. As a substitute of coal in coal-fired powerplants, biocarbons greatly reduce harmful emissions of CO2, SOx, and heavy metals.