Researchers at the IIT Kharagpur have tapped microwave radiation to create clean energy for large-scale use from nitrogen-rich non-food Sunn Hemp plants. The IIT Kharagpur Bioenergy Lab team was led by Prof. Saikat Chakraborty, faculty at the Department of Chemical Engineering and P K Sinha Center for Bioenergy and researcher Souvik Kumar Paul, an IIT Kharagpur statement said. High-energy non-edible plant sources such as Sunn Hemp have the potential of making available biofuel on a large scale, as a replacement of fossil fuel.
The team successfully converted the non-edible lignocellulosic fibres (plant dry matter) of Sunn Hemp to biofuel precursors, an alternative to land-based crops for biofuels, the statement said. The entire conversion, which otherwise takes 8-10 hours, took 46 minutes to be completed by using the microwave reactors in the lab, the statement said. Sunn Hemp is widely grown in the sub-tropical regions of Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, the US and Uganda.
In India it is widely grown in Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The large scale availability of Sunn Hemp in India along with its fast rate of growth, high cellulose (75.6 per cent) and high energy contents are the key elements of listing it as a top choice for the biofuel industry. The scientists have filed for a patent and their findings have appeared in the globally renowned journal Bioresource Technology published by Elsevier.