The primary objective of the centre will be developing renewable sources of energy with specific focus on creating a bioscience and bioengineering platform for developing viable technologies for bio-alcohols, biodiesel, biohydrogen and other biofuels, according to professor Arvind Lali, who is coordinating the technical programme of the centre.
The initial work on the centre has started and the proper infrastructure will come up soon, Lali said.
Headed by UICT Director J B Joshi, the centre, sanctioned by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of Ministry of Science and Technology, will be established at a cost of Rs 24 crore.
According to Lali, the country produces around 200 million tonnes of waste biomass every year unfit for human and animal consumption. This waste along with specially developed high-yield energy crops could together produce enough alcohol to meet the country’s demand for liquid fuel, he said. “But today there’s no known technology that can be used to make the required alcohol from waste biomass. Hence, the centre will concentrate on creating feasible technologies to produce alcohol in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner,” said Lali.
“Liquid petroleum fuel demand is more than 25 per cent of the country’s total energy consumption, of which petrol and diesel consumption together add to about 65 million tonnes per year. A good part of this demand can be met through renewable sources,” said Lali.
He said the centre would focus on bio-fuel to meet the needs of transport industry. “We have a laboratory where we have been successfully generating bio-processing solutions for industries. Seeing our contribution, the DBT, which itself has been working on bio-fuels and how it can solve the country’s energy problems, decided to start the centre with us,” said Lali.
The Centre will also integrate technological components developed elsewhere in the country under various research schemes.
The technical programme will also see collaboration with industrial and academic partners, including MAHYCO Research Centre (India); School of Chemical Engineering-Purdue University (USA); Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering-Centre for Resilience, Ohio State University (USA) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (India).
The collaborations will be in the specific areas of plant biotechnology, metabolic engineering and life cycle and technology assessment.
With the start of the centre and the subsequent generation of Intellectual Property Rights, UICT expects participation from private and public investors in its biofuel technology development programme.