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National Environmental Engineering Research Institute(Neeri),Purti Power to test industrial production of biofuel from algae

According to reports,moving one step ahead in the development of a technology to produce biodiesel from algae, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) is now planning to scale up the technology to industrial scale in collaboration with Purti Power and Sugar Ltd. If the scaling up yields good results, the technology would be commercialized by the industry to produce biodiesel using ‘chlorella’, an algae which has given good results at laboratory level. Neeri and Purti would be signing an MOU this week to start the scale up trials.

The technology was developed by Tapan Chakrabarti, former acting Neeri director and head of the environment health division, its present chief K Krishnamurthi and his team in 2010. “The department of biotechnology, government of India, which is funding the research has already given its nod for the venture. Once the MOU is signed this week, we would begin installing the technology at Purti’s industrial unit at Bela, about 40km from the city. Though Neeri’s technologies are being used in scaled up form in many fields, this one is particularly exciting as world over scientists are working on algae as a source of biofuel,” said Satish Wate, Neeri director.

Chakrabarti said that initially the institute would use chlorella algae based on their results, but later it could be a mixed culture of chlorella and another species, Scenedesmus. “Purti has already prepared the water ponds for cultivation of the algae. We would be using fresh water and not industrial waste water as one may expect. This is being done to avoid presence of microorganisms like protozoa which can eat up the algae. Initially, the algae would be harvested every eight days but this time would be reduced later,” he said.

The biodiesel like chemical produced during the process will be first used up to top up diesel in fuel tanks by up to 10-30%. But the institute is trying to completely replace the diesel in one year, since it is anyway a fossil fuel which creates pollution. Biodiesel from the algae, though, is a renewable resource developed through an eco-friendly process which will utilize carbon dioxide generated by the industry.

Hemant Jambhekar, in-charge of alternative fuel department at Purti, said, “Once this scale up model works, technologically and economically, Neeri and Purti will work as business partners to take it forward.”

Krishnamurthi, who is heading the project now, says that since carbon dioxide is needed by plants to make food through photosynthesis, this process would directly sequester carbon, which is a big need of the hour. Also, the profit margin in the process will be very high as the cost of production is almost negligible. “The process uses just sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. It serves a dual purpose. Industry gets rid of the pollutant while an alternative and renewable source of energy is generated,” he said.

The other scientists involved in the research include Abhay Fulke, SN Mudliar, Raju Yadav, Ajam Shekh, N Srinivasan, Rishiram Ramanan and S Sravana Devi.

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