Here's another breakthrough by IIT Kharagpur researchers...

After developing tools that can make your train travel safer, scientists at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur have now achieved another major breakthrough. They have found a way to raise biofuel yield from commonly found aquatic weeds such as water hyacinths.

According to a new study published in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers have shown that this weed — which contains up to 50 percent hemicelluloses — can now be used as an economic and abundant source of biofuel.

Saikat Chakraborty, faculty member at the Department of Chemical Engineering and lead researcher of the Bioenergy Research Group at IIT Kharagpur said - “We show that the secret to rapidly producing soluble sugars from amorphous natural polymers such as hemicelluloses lies in their smallest scale-the pores."

The researchers have uncovered the pore-scale phenomena that result in “fourfold increase in the yields of fermentable sugars and bioethanol” from hemicelluloses.

“It turns out that three quarters of the soluble sugars we obtain for generation of bioethanol are produced from the pore-scale reactions. So increasing the polymer’s porosity and degree of swelling will enhance the deconstruction of hemicelluloses from plant cell walls, thus increasing bioethanol,” the authors are quoted as saying, in the study.

Hemicelluloses are the second most abundant natural polymer on earth — after cellulose — and a new technology engendered from this pore-scale phenomena could rapidly produce biofuels from locally available plant sources.

Apart from water-hyacinth, hemicellulose-based bioethanol can also be produced from commonly available grasses, red and green algae, etc., which have 2.5 to 3 times more hemicellulose than cellulose.

Up next is another study where Scientists at the institute’s chemical engineering department and PK Sinha Centre for Bioenergy are working to transform these fundamental insights into new biofuel technologies that would help fight climate change.

(Credits: Nature Scientific Reports)
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