Author – Sumedh Mool
Enthusiastic students from across the various campuses of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have developed environment-friendly projects that are both economic and easy to use. We had earlier showcased some path-breaking innovations that took their first steps at IIT campuses. In continuation, we are presenting a few more eco-friendly innovations emerging from the young minds of IITs – a smart electric motor vehicle with Android dashboard, compressed biogas production for use in both domestic and commercial units, and reducing emissions from power plants using the carbon capture technology.
Enriched Biogas for Bottling – IIT Delhi
Biogas is generally produced from the anaerobic decomposition of biodegradable materials such as food waste, biomass waste, etc. Hence, it produces greenhouse gases upon burning. Conventional biogas contains 55-65% methane (CH4) and 35-45% carbon dioxide (CO2), and it can only be used on site since it not suitable for transportation and compression, due to the presence of CO2.
A team of youngsters from IIT Delhi has developed an ingenious method of biogas production, which is an upgraded version of the conventional method. The produced biogas contains more than 90% of methane. Since methane has higher thermal efficiency, this innovative fuel gives much greater energy output. It can also be bottled, thus having the potential to replace compressed natural gas (CNG).
The team deploys a technique called ‘High Pressure Water Scrubbing Method’ to reduce carbon dioxide concentration in biogas. This technique involves physical absorption of CO2 and H2S in water at high pressure, but only a negligible amount of methane is lost, since the solubility of methane is very low as compared to carbon dioxide. Thus obtained fuel known as Compressed Biogas (CBG) can be used for cooking stoves, vehicles, electricity production, etc. During a test on a regular CNG car for around 15,000 km, no significant change was observed in the CBG-fuelled vehicle, which offered a mileage of 24.11km/kg vs. 24.38km/kg with CNG. Further, the commercial viability of biogas purification and bottling can be attained above 500m3/day.
Carbon Capture Solution – IIT Kharagpur
Approximately 80% of the global energy comes from fossil fuels currently. Carbon dioxide is released in large quantities when fossil fuels are burnt to produce energy for industrial or domestic purposes. The ever increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is an issue of concern. Higher CO2 levels in the air may eventually result in drastic environmental changes that could lead to mass extinction.
Carbon Clean Solutions (CCS) of IIT Kharagpur has developed a cutting-edge ‘Carbon Capture Technology’ to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industries, which apparently are the biggest polluters. Prateek Bumb and Aniruddha Sharma of CCS state their technology makes it practically possible to capture up to 90% of CO2 emissions from the flue gas emitted by factories.
Flue gas is passed through a cylindrical tower that contains a proprietary chemical for absorbing CO2 through a chemical reaction. Once the CO2 is absorbed in the solvent, steam is passed through this chemical to capture pure CO2, which is later compressed and processed for further use. Meanwhile, the chemical is circulated back into the absorber column for reuse. This indicates that components used in the CCS’ carbon capture technology are reusable.
Pure CO2 has a plethora of uses right from food & beverages industries and to grow biomass from algae. There are approximately 5,000 power plant boilers across the world, which produce some 10 billion tons of CO2 every year. Successful installation of Carbon Clean Solutions’ technology at a commercial scale would reduce a significant percentage of these huge CO2 levels and that is exactly how the impact is measured. A major advantage of this technique is that it offers 30% lower energy consumption and much better output, as compared to conventional methods. Carbon Clean Solutions already operates in India, the UK and the US, and has received positive responses from several industries.
E-Scooter with Android Dashboard – IIT Madras
Young students from IIT Madras have founded ‘Ather Energy’ with a strong belief that electrical energy will drive the future of vehicles, powered by cleaner and smarter solutions. Their first product is a scooter that not only runs on electricity, but also is a smart vehicle. They have built the vehicle with their own chassis, suspension, lithium ion battery packs, battery management systems and body works. The scooter is also fitted with a first-of-its-kind Android tablet dashboard to ease vehicle usage. The tablet helps the rider with navigation, and also provide information on power usage, battery condition, system temperature and the time remaining for the next charge-up. It can help track theft as well.
The electric bike is about the size of a 100cc motorbike currently available in the market and offers enough boot space to accommodate two full-sized helmets. Unlike other electric scooters that use lead-acid batteries, Ather Energy’s e-scooter utilizes lithium ion batteries, which are commonly used in laptops, in order to facilitate faster charging. The prototype model currently has a maximum speed of 75 kmph. It takes a minimal charging time of 1.5 hours to get fully charged as compared to other electric bikes that take around 6-8 hours. Further, the total power consumed is just 2.5 units of electricity. The Ather Energy team is confident that an improved version of their prototype would be launched soon. Meanwhile, the team has planned to launch the commercial version of their ‘Ather Energy Electric Scooter’ by early-2016.