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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

IIT-G develops sustainable microalgae biorefinery models

Under the Microalgae Biorefinery Model, multiple research projects are underway on renewable and sustainable energy.


The School of Energy Science and Engineering, department of Chemical Engineering, department of Bioscience and Bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) is working actively to make a major contribution to building a sustainable future.

Under the Microalgae Biorefinery Model, multiple research projects are underway on renewable and sustainable energy.

Highlighting the need for research on sustainable development, IIT-G officiating director Prof Parameswar K Iyer said, “Alternate fuel production is the need of the hour. IIT-G is working for the last 25 years in this domain where various researchers have contributed significantly in developing a microalgae-based biorefinery model under which waste treatment, as well as fuel production, can be carried out simultaneously. Efforts to utilize the rich biomass of NE reason for bioethanol/ methanol/butanol production as an alternative to fossil fuels.”

Prof Vaibhav V Goud, head School of Energy Science and Engineering, IIT-G and his research team have formulated an efficient strategy that transforms residual microalgae/biomass into energy fuel and chemicals.

By implementing specific alteration strategies, such as inhibiting steps, researchers have diverted the process cycle to recover the product of choice (H2, biogas, and chemicals).

As per their findings, the combined use of residual microalgae with biomass (rice straw) helped enhance energy recovery. It also provides a sustainable approach for developing a biomass/microalgae-based biorefinery for producing energy fuels and chemicals.

Prof Kaustubha Mohanty, Adjunct Faculty, School of Energy Science and Engineering and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and his research team have developed an advanced microalgal biorefinery model that integrates wastewater treatment and high-value biofuel production via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) where domestic sewage sludge and microalgal biomass are used as co-feedstock.

The Co-HTL used microalgal biomass and sewage sludge as cofeedstock, resulting in 40 per cent biocrude yield and properties comparable to petroleum crude. Their developed biorefinery process theoretical conversion and mass balance suggested that one million domestic sewage wastewater will deliver 2,500 kg biomass feedstock which further resulted in 980 Kg biocrude followed by 5,000 kg CO2 sequestration. The biomass can provide 600 kg of biofuels to support a city bus to run ten return trips (60 km) for 26 days with 20 per cent blending (B20) with commercial diesel.

The research team has collaborated with eminent Scientists from national and international organizations such as IIT Kharagpur, CSIR-IICT Hyderabad, and Technical University Denmark, to develop an advanced biorefinery process. The industry partners for technology transfer include Purabi Diary Assam, Symbiosis Center, Denmark and HPCL. Presently the team is working on pilot-scale demonstrations of advanced microalgal biorefinery processes to generate biocrude.

Prof VS Moholkar, Adjunct faculty of School of Energy Science and Engineering and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT-G and his research group have developed lab-scale know-how for producing bio-alcohols like bioethanol and biobutanol from waste invasive weeds that are ubiquitous in northeast India. Prof. Moholkar’s group has developed the sonic fermentation technique for the synthesis of bio-alcohols from mixed invasive weeds, which is not only faster than conventional fermentation but also gives higher yields. Especially, biobutanol can be blended with petrol up to 80 per cent due to its very similar properties to petrol.

Elaborating on his research Prof Moholkar said, “India has the mandate of achieving 10 per cent ethanol blends with petrol. Our know-how has not only provided a viable solution for achieving energy security but has also demonstrated the concept of control through utilisation for the invasive weeds, which cause severe damage to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.”

Debasish Das, Associated Faculty of School of Energy Science and Engineering and Professor, Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering and his research group in collaboration with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have demonstrated a pilot scale technology for the production of liquid hydrocarbon oil ALGLIQOL, with a potential to be utilized as transportation fuel via hydrothermal liquification (HTL) of microalgae biomass grown on CO2. The technology has been developed by integrating: Process engineering strategy for high cell density cultivation of microalgae biomass; low-cost scalable harvesting of biomass and catalytic upgradation of bio-crude oil followed by fractional distillation.

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