Though there has been a lot of publicity on why not to use plastic, the use of it has only increased. In such a scenario, the research initiative of Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute is a shot in the arm. A low cost bio-plastic product would help us Save the Earth. And once again it is Bharat that will show the way to the world.
From byproducts of bio-diesel, a new, low-cost bio-plastic
Author: Adam Halliday
Publication: Indian Express
Dated: April 4, 2010
Intro: The Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute in
Bhavnagar, Gujarat, has come up with a waste-free way of making
biodegradable polymers from byproduct of bio-diesel
Industry has long been wary of mass-producing biodegradable plastics,
not only because of deficient technology, but also because of the high
costs usually associated with them.
But a CSIR-funded institute in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, might just have the
solution with its breakthrough discovery last week-a process by which
biodegradable polymers can be developed at almost zero cost using
byproducts of jatropha-based bio-diesel.
Many institutions have developed biodegradable plastics using crude
glycerol, a byproduct of bio-diesel, but the process has been extremely
sophisticated and expensive. “We are not the first people to make
bio-diesel from crude glycerol. But we wanted to find a smarter way,”
said Pushpito K. Ghosh, director of the Central Salt & Marine Chemicals
Research Institute (CSMCRI).
CSMCRI owes its biodegradable polymer to a project that started 12 years
ago, when it started conducting research on the practicality of
cultivating jatropha on wasteland 12 years ago.
“The challenge,” said Ghosh, “was, can we really grow jatropha on
marginal land?” By 2004, the answer started to sound like yes. The
institute developed a machine to separate the shell of the jatropha
fruit from the seed-the main source of oil. It also developed another
machine to convert the empty shells into a fuel that could be used
instead of coal in a chulha. As for the seed, it was crushed in a
mechanical oil expeller, resulting in two by-products: a liquid layer of
crude glycerol and another layer of crude bio-diesel.
In August 2005, scientists from the institute rode three
bio-diesel-powered Mercedes Benz cars to the highest motorable road in
the world, the Khardunga Pass in Leh. The bio-diesel they used also
turned out to be the best bio-fuel for a car’s engine-a European
Union-commissioned study adjudged it the best for overall engine
performance in 2006.
The institute applied for a US patent for its process, which was granted
in February 2010. The scientists, however, continued to experiment with
one of the byproducts-crude glycerol. This is what led to the present
The team’s experiments led them to discover and isolate a microbe from
seawater from the Gujarat coast. The microorganism was allowed to grow
on crude glycerol and deoiled cake, using it as an inexpensive carbon
and nitrogen source for biodegradable polymer (polyhydroxyalkanoa te-PHA)
“Jatropha bio-diesel byproducts reduced the cost of raw material and
increased marine bacterial cell density with PHA accumulation of 75-80
per cent cell dry weight of bacteria and 20 per cent carbon conversion
efficiency,” Sandhya Mishra, one of the scientists involved, said in an
email. “Thus, jatropha bio-diesel byproducts are potentially viable as a
source for commercial, large-scale production of PHA.”
“The entire reaction period between the bio-diesel byproducts is
usually 48 to 96 hours,” Ghosh said. The remaining solution that is
excluded from the reaction is, in fact, a good nutrient for jatropha
plantations, making the entire process virtually waste-less.
Further testing showed that when the polymer was buried in the soil for
six months, it dissolved completely.
“We have conducted the experiments up to the gram scale level,” Mishra
said, “and we are now looking towards scaling up for commercial
production at the kilogram level.”