Bhavnagar-based research institute Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) has developed a ‘green plastic’ using the residues of bio-fuel that is made from a tropical weed jatropha. What’s more, the institute has been granted an European patent for its bio-degradable plastic in January this year.
“We had initiated a research on using the residue of bio-diesel to be converted to plastic.The idea of green plastic came as a result of our concern to effectively utilize the crude glycerol which is the byproduct of the Jatropha biodiesel,” said S Mishra, principal scientist, CSMCRI.
Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and CSMCRI have started research related to the development of ‘green plastic’ in 2005 during the second phase of the project entitled ‘Biofuels from eroded soils of India” sponsored by Daimler Chrysler, Germany.
More than 500 gms. of green plastic has already been produced in the laboratory at gram scale which was distributed to some firms for research analysis and studies on its further applications in bio-medical area. “Now ,our target is to scale up the process from gram to kilogram scale per batch production. Besides, we are also trying to improve functional/physical properties of the product,” she added.
Recently, European patent has been granted in January 2014 for the process of bioplastics made by CSIR-CSMCRI (Grant no. EP 2475754 B1). Tests conducted on the polymers have shown that they completely degrade in moist soil within three months.
A senior ex-scientist associated with the institute claimed that such plastics can find suitable use in the automotive industry, and by replacing conventional plastics with biodegradable plastics could enhance the ‘green’ content of a car. However, institute sources confirmed that so far no car manufacturer has shown any interest to test it on their vehicles.
Meanwhile, the institute along with certain other premier institutes has also been working on exploring the feasibility of developing microalgal bio-fuels from marine strains of micro-algae found abundantly along the coastline of India. Micro-algae are a group of microscopic life forms in moist environments, and the lipids stored in these can be extracted through suitable methods and then can be converted into biodiesel by chemical means.
“Microalgal biodiesel have some distinct advantages over using plants for making biodiesel. The most significant advantage of microalgal among these is their faster growth rate and the ability to utilize seawater or even polluted waste-water streams for their growth instead of agricultural land & water,” Mishra explained adding that they also do not feed the ‘food vs. fuel’ debate as they do not utilize the resources needed for growth of food crops.
The first phase of the project on “Biofuel from marine microalgae” was aimed at developing a scalable process for producing biofuel from marine microalgae.