Fuel has always been an indispensible need of man. Whether from developed or third world countries, people around the world need fuel for everyday living. In preparing our basic necessities like food and clean water, we need fuel. Usually, we rely on electricity and fossil fuel (like liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene) for our energy need. Some nationalities use firewood and charcoal. However, there are other resources which have more advantages and benefits that these conventional sources. One such fuel is the briquette.
Briquettes are flammable blocks of matter used as fuel. They are made from extruded or compressed shredded combustible materials. A binding agent like starch may be necessary to hold the materials together, though pressure may at times be enough. Some of the common materials used as briquettes are charcoal fines, mineral char, sawdust, chaff from rice, peanut and other crops, peat, and any biomass materials.
So why do we have to used briquettes instead of firewood, charcoal, or electricity? What are their advantages over them? Well, here are ten of the major benefits derived from the utilization of briquettes as fuel.
1. Concentrated. Since briquettes are created from compressing combustible materials, they are denser, harder, and more compact. They have high specific density (1200kg/m3) and bulk density (800kg/m3) compared to 60 to 180 kg/m3 of loose bio mass. Thus, they offer a more concentrated form of energy than firewood or charcoal.
2. Slow-burning. The compression process allows the briquettes to burn for a lot longer than if it was loose in its original condition.
3. More efficient. Along with the compactness of the briquettes is the increase in heating value. Briquettes can relatively produce more intense heat than other fuel. They have a higher practical thermal value and much lower ash content (2-10% compare to 20-40% in coal). In fact, they are 40% more efficient, as well as hotter and longer lasting than firewood. This greater efficiency can be attributed to their low moisture and density.
4. Smokeless. This is a unique property of briquettes. Using them creates no smoke, soot, or carbon deposits. Depending on the base material, they produce no or little fly ash. Further, briquettes do not emit gases or any toxic chemicals like sulfur.
5. Availability. Biomass is the main component in producing briquettes. So where do we get this biomass? Look around you, and there are loads of biomass materials here, there, and everywhere.
6. Easy to make. There are presently commercial briquettes sold in the market. However, ordinary households can produce briquettes. You must only have a stock of combustible matter, a binder, and a molder to shape the briquettes.
7. Easily stored. The size and shape of briquettes make them easily be stored. We can readily pile them in several heaps because of their fun shapes like cubical, spherical, cylindrical, or rectangular blocks. They are likewise clean to handle and be packed into bags.
8. Easily transported. Compacting biomass waste into briquettes reduces the volume by 10 times, making it much easier to store and transport than loose biomass waste. Considering their shape, size, and density, briquettes are excellent for long distance transport. Likewise, loading and unloading cost are much less and are done easier.
9. Cheaper. Since briquettes can be domestically made from plants and animal wastes, they are consequently less expensive to produce, and thereby sold at lower prices.
10. Renewable. Briquettes make use of organic materials which are common and renewable. Hence, we are ensured of the sustainability of such fuel source.