Project ‘Biosynth’ is an initiative by the students of the Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Bombay to install a Biodiesel plant. The initiative was started in 2008 by students of the Chemical Engineering Department. This project is unique as it has been designed and operated completely by the students. The whole project has been financed by IIT Bombay. The four years of rigorous Research and Development work to optimise the protocol for Biodiesel production, simultaneous design and production work of Process Equipment for the plant and the expert guidance from the professors of the department of Chemical Engineering finally paid off when on 6th February 2012, the students produced Biodiesel for the first time in the plant.
The plant is a 200 litre Batch unit. It provides vital hands-on experience to students in not just Design & Production but also Research and Development that forms the backbone of the Chemical Engineering field. It is aimed to introduce green fuel technology in the institute campus to run institute vehicles, to create awareness among the campus community through participation and learning and to conduct research on green energy technology through student initiation and participation. The project’s long term vision is to come up with an efficient technology that can substantially reduce pollution and our country’s dependence on imported fuels.
Glimpse of the long Journey
The team since its nascent days has grown to 35 members strong with hierarchy designed at three levels for smooth functioning of the project. The team is headed by two Overall Coordinators while the individual departments are looked after by managers who work under the OCs. A new team is elected every year to ensure continuity and also to infuse fresh ideas into the project. The project is supervised by Prof. Sanjay Mahajani of the Chemical Engineering Department who has been supporting the project and encouraging students since its inception. The team is broadly divided into two groups –
1) Research and Development Team
- Standardization of the biodiesel production protocol from wide variety of raw materials like waste vegetable oil (WVO), acid oil and sunflower oil through series of experiments with all these feed stocks
- Quality testing of biodiesel produced as per the American society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) standards
- Experiments were conducted on ion-exchange resins for acid neutralization in the post-esterification by-product for obtaining pure methanol that can be re-used in the plant.
2) Design and Production Team
- Biodiesel testing in institute vehicles for performance and emissions
- Design of the pilot scale facility based on the lab scale standardization
- Fabricate, install and commission the plant
- Plantation of jatropha plants on the Sameer hill in the campus so that Jatropha oil can become the potential raw material for our plant
- Commissioning of the plant that involves tasks like pressure, vacuum and hydrotesting for the whole plant.
Problems Faced During the Commissioning
The team faced numerous problems during commissioning of the plant with the notably important ones being a leakage in the reactor and malfunctioning of one of the pumps. But these problems were smoothly handled and finally rectified by the students. The commissioning process in itself was a new and incredible learning experience for the students. The rectified problems have made the plant not only more efficient but also improved its operation from a safety point of view.
In troubleshooting these problems the advice received from Prof Sanjay Mahajani and other faculty from the department was valuable in not only being effective but also practically implementable
Accomplishments by Team Biosynth
- The team received the top award in student category for outstanding research in field of green chemistry and engineering at the Industrial Green Chemistry Workshop (IGCW 2009) held in Mumbai in December 2009
- The team was again selected in Industrial Green Chemistry Workshop (IGCW 2011) to exhibit their project along with the model of the plant
- The model of the plant was also kept for exhibition in Techfest 2012 where it was highly admired by people
The project Biosynth has fulfilled one of the objectives of providing hands on industrial experience of working on a plant along with theoretical studies in the curriculum. Some of the future visions of the team are:
- To convert the batch process into continuous plant
- To use heterogeneous catalysts instead of homogeneous catalysts
- Generating awareness about Biofuels in the community
- Giving an idea of the fields of Chemical engineering to the school students
- Providing a learning platform for the students of Chemical Engineering in the colleges in India.
You may contact the overall coordinators or visit the website to know more about the people involved –
Shrayank Gupta Ph: +91 9969759291, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shubhang Garodia Ph: +91 8097246493, Email: email@example.com
InsIghT’s note: The article was written by the Overall Coordinators of Project Biosynth