Teenage students ‘study’ alternative to petrol

Published On: September 15, 2018 07:23 AM NPT By: DIYA DHAKAL

KATHMANDU, Sept 15: India’s undeclared economic blockade on Nepal in 2015 which completely obstructed the passage for petroleum products and other essentials to Nepal inspired three eighteen-year-olds to conduct a test in search of an alternative to petrol.

Alcohol, specifically ethanol, is a known potential substitute to non-renewable energy. After detailed research, Saurav Raj Pandey, Arun Bhatta, and Ankit Pandit conducted tests to find the prospects of bio-fuel in Nepal.

According to the team, the tests involved examining corn stover, paper, and corn separately to find their individual yield of ethanol and were conducted in the laboratory at Tri-Chandra College. 

One gram of each feedstock was used. Each feedstock was added to 25 ml of distilled water to form a mixture which was then boiled for 30 minutes. The resulting mixture was placed in an incubator for 24 hours at 50 degrees Celsius after which the centrifuge tube was taken out and cellulose enzyme was added. 

The students said that the mixture now containing the enzyme was again placed in an incubator for a further 24 hours at 37 Celsius. One gram of yeast was added to the final mixture which reacted with the glucose in the plant mixtures to produce alcohol. 

The alcohol produced wasn’t pure and contained some volume of water. Results using an alcohol sensor led to the following findings: corn stalks yielded 0.58% alcohol, paper yielded 1.64% and corn yielded 2.10%. 

Pandit says that the project is a small step toward finding an alternative to petrol and the alcohol produced cannot be directly used in engines. However, it does open prospects for biofuel production in Nepal. 

Pandit said, “This method is extremely feasible in Nepal, being an agricultural country. Any waste ranging from plant peals to plants itself can be used,” he said.

The main objective of this project was to draw the attention that bio-fuel can be a prospective alternative in the future. The team stressed that local level involvement is possible as plant waste such as leaves, peels which go unused at home can also be used to produce alcohol. 

“It’s a win-win situation, as waste that would otherwise be thrown can be properly utilized,” Pandey said. 

Energy consumption has gone off the chart in the recent years and the trio believes that it is impossible for non-renewable energy sources to sustain the world for too long. They stressed the importance of an immediate replacement and believe that such alcohol produced when mixed with some amount of petrol can be an even efficient fuel. 

Pandey said that if an industry that could possibly produce such alcohol at large scale were to be established, environment and economy could both benefit. 

Pollutants produced when burning non-renewable energy sources is 85% greater than bio-fuel and establishing such an industry at home decreases Nepal’s dependence on India. 

“Fuel crisis is a burning issue and fossil fuels can’t sustain us forever,” Pandey said adding, “If teenagers like us can independently produce ethanol without any technical or financial assistance, the nation can certainly use the abundant resources it possesses to establish such an industry.”


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