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Faculty Members at IIT Jodhpur working on Bio Fuels
Biomass, or bio-energy, has been acknowledged as a renewable energy source that can replace fossil fuels, with the added bonus that the biomass can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the greenhouse effect.Biofuel, obtained either from microbial fermentation or from the pyrolysis of biomass in an inert gas atmosphere, has a significant appeal for use in transportation fuels, both economically and technologically. Algae can produce more oil than other biofuel feed stocks. The bottle neck of this technology is to devise cultivation methods for algae which can support higher growth rates and oil productivities, efficient methods to convert algae oil to fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel) or to develop a “Right Catalyst” that can convert biomass to fuel (bio) for the current technology.
Rakesh K. Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry is working on “Catalytic Upgrading of Algae Biomass to Transport Fuel” funded by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. This research aims to develop new and efficient hetrogeneous catalytic systems for conversion of algae biomass to transport fuel via tandem hydrocraking followed by Hydrodenitrogenation and/or hydrodeoxygenation processes. These heterogeneous catalytic systems based on metals nanoparticles supported/intercalated/layered in zeolites and clays. Successful catalysts are aimed to be green, recyclable and scalable (kilogram level). These catalysts will be sulphide free non nobel metals catalysts. In next phase, the substrate applications will be extended from algal-oil to edible and non-edible oils. The reactions will be essentially carried out at two operating conditions, for mild (50-200°C, 100 bar) and deep hydrotreatment (200-350°C, 200 bar). Mechanistic studies of these catalytic processes will be focal point to design a better catalyst.
Meenu Chhabra, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, is working on “Development of low cost Microbial carbon capture cells for power generation and algae cultivation” funded by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Bio-fuels from algae have a potential to completely replace fossil based fuels and provide energy security for the future. However, the cost of algae bio-fuels is still too high for commercial application. In this context, a process for the production of algae and electrical energy using microbial carbon capture (MCC) cells is proposed. In MCC cells, the process of algae biomass degradation complements the process of algae biomass production with concomitant power generation. The proposed process is expected to give enhanced algae growth rates and hence higher oil productivities.
The two projects together are likely to offer an exciting technology proposition of offering non-fossil fuels for the nation.

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