Indian scientists turn coconut oil into biofuel

Kochi: Scientists who have been running the four-stroke diesel engine of a light pick-up truck on coconut oil for the past one year have approached the union government to commercialise the biofuel.

The scientists are attached to the Kochi-based SCMS Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research and Development and the SCMS School of Engineering and Technology.

While the manufacturers of the Tata Ace claim mileage of 16 km to a litre of diesel, the vehicle can run 22.5 km per litre of the biofuel, the scientists say.

"We purchased this brand new vehicle a year back. By now, it has done 20,000 km and has proved beyond doubt that coconut oil can replace diesel. We can provide this product at Rs.40 a litre," C. Mohankumar, who heads the team of six scientists, told IANS.

Mohankumar said they have already applied for a US patent and also approached the union ministry of renewable energy to take this biofuel to its logical conclusion by commercialising it.

"The emission levels are lower than other forms of biodiesel, making it a very eco-friendly product too," said Mohankumar.

Explaining the process, he said 760 litres of biofuel can be produced from the oil of 10,000 coconuts.

"There are also five other by-products. This includes 5,000 kg of husk, 2,500 kg of coconut shells, 1,250 litres of coconut water, around 1,200 kg of cake (that can be used as cattle feed) and 70 litres of glycerol."

"Each of these products has a market value and that's how we are able to commercially supply this biodfuel at Rs.40 a litre," Mohankumar said.

"We have conducted numerous tests on this coconut biofuel that are for anyone to see. It shows that all the parameters are much lower than other biodiesel products," he added.

The study was published in the December 2014 issue of the journal 'Fuel'.

Coconut Development Board (CDB) Chairman T.K. Jose said he had studied the performance of the vehicle that the scientists have been using.

"We (CDB) don't have the funds for taking forward their innovation and hence they have approached the centre. I have gone through all their reports on the biofuel. The emission levels are much less than other similar products," Jose told IANS.

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