IIT Jodhpur researchers produce Squalene using Rajasthani sand

By: | Published: July 3, 2016 7:34 PM

The team has now proposed to crack 'Squalene' into pieces to convert it into a high grade Jet fuel.

IIT entrance newsIIT Jodhpur researchers used Rajasthani sand as a catalyst to produce Squalene. (PTI)

A research team at IIT Jodhpur has claimed success in using Rajasthani sand to produce 100 per cent pure Squalene, a naturally occurring compound used by cosmetics, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.

The discovery will also help curb the killing of sharks, the primary source for Squalene, and reduce the Indian industries’ dependency on foreign companies for the essential hydrocarbon, the researchers said.

The researchers — Rakesh K Sharma, a Chemistry faculty, and postdoctoral fellow Vineet K Soni– succeeded in producing Squalene, using Rajasthani sand as a catalyst under a project titled ‘Catalytic upgrading of algal oil into transport fuel’.

Squalene, a naturally occurring compound helpful in treating heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and hepatitis besides use in skin care, is found in the liver of sharks but in very meagre concentration of three per cent.

In low quantities, Squalene is also found in olive and palm oils.

The team, for the first time, used Rajasthani sand as a catalyst to produce 100 per cent pure saturated hydrocarbon, Squalene.

“During our research with Rajasthani sand, we first used the sand as water-purification agent and then proceeded to put it to some industrial application because of the pillared structure of this sand and its stability at high temperature up to as high as 1,000 degree centigrade,” said Sharma, an expert in catalytic agents and reactions.

“So, we first took normal sand, homogenised it followed by its purification using water and acid and crushed it into fine powder form.

“It was then mixed with an inexpensive metal salt and the algal oil obtained from the refinery waste and heated up to 500 degree centigrade, which provided 100 per cent saturated hydrocarbon called ‘Squalene’,” Sharma explained.

Assistant Registrar of IIT Jodhpur Amardeep Sharma said, “We have already filed for the patent of this discovery and are pleased to announce that a provisional patent has been granted.”

Sharma claimed this was for the first time that a research on such an important ingredient in cosmetics has taken place in the country. He said industrial queries have started pouring in due to both the compound being 100 per cent saturated and being many times cheaper than the product available now.

The research has also found a place in a reputed European scientific journal ‘Chemcatchem’, Sharma said, adding, “We are receiving inquiries from different industries.”

The team has now proposed to crack ‘Squalene’ into pieces to convert it into a high grade Jet fuel.

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