Breakthrough Biofuel Technology from IITKGP

Breakthrough technology from IITKGP can become a game changer for Indian biofuel industry

The researchers at IIT Kharagpur have achieved a breakthrough that will change the way biofuel is manufactured all over the globe by making the process cheaper, quicker and above all pollution free. The ‘soil-to-soil’ manufacturing technology developed at the P. K. Sinha Centre for bioenergy at IIT Kharagpur is in the process of being patented. Explaining how the technology would work Dr. Rintu Banerjee, Professor of Department of Agricultural and Food Engineering, Ex-Chair professor, MNRE, P. K. Sinha Center for bioenergy said, “2g bioethanol can be produced from various naturally available lignocellulosic components. But to do so it needs to be treated chemically and in some cases physic-chemically. Because of chemical treatment the process contributes to polluting the environment. We have replaced this chemical treatment with enzymes which degrade the lignin specifically there by making the manufacturing process pollution free.”

“Also unlike the chemical treatment here the waste product is pollution free and hence utilizing the residual biomass to organic fertilizeris possible. The solid waste recovered after bioethanol production is subjected to produce methane gas thereafter the fermented biomass was enriched with cyanobacteria to convert the residue into fertilizer. It is soil-to-soil technology, an integrated process where we are using natural resources to extract gaseous and liquid biofuel and then converting the wastes into bio fertilizer. It is a unique integrated approach which we have developed in our lab,” she added.

The ‘National Policy on bio-fuel’ targeted 20% blending of biofuel with petrol by 2017. But the target so far remains unachieved. With the government expecting bio fuel business in India to touch ?50,000 crore by 2022 this new green technology with lesser manufacturing cost and time can become a game changer. “The technique that we are suggesting will ensure relatively quicker production of bio fuel and ensuing that the process is completely green. There by not creating any secondary pollution. This, we feel can change the future of bio fuel manufacturing in India and make it more cost effective,” said Prof. Banerjee.

Presently this project is funded by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Here they are taking care of another government mandate – not to use consumable food crops for the purpose while manufacturing bio fuel. Hence IIT-KGP is producing bioethanol, biobutanol, biodiesel, biohydrogen and bio-methane in its pilot plant using various non-edible lignocellulosics which would have otherwise been wasted.

The green leafy part of corn and sugarcane plants, the waste part of paddy straw, bushy bamboo, sorghum, banana plant, pineapple and cotton plants, kans grass (kassh phool), castor plant and even non edible weeds that grow in dry and waste land and a mix of all has been used by IIT-KGP to produce bio fuel. Recently the center has also succeeded in extracting bio diesel from used cooking oil, which was otherwise thrown away by the restaurants. To make the process zero wastes, glycerol has been used for growing oleaginous microbes and thus the lipid recovered can be used as biodiesel. This is also a green technology.
“Through these technologies we have successfully produced zero pollution bio fuel from 550 kg of biomass in our pilot plant. Unlike other bio fuel manufacturing process it requires very less water as well as the production process is quicker, which means the manufactures will not require huge reactors. The by-product when converted into organic fertilizer will ensure more income for the manufacture. The technology is ready for industry use,” said Prof. Banerjee