Microalgae to Hydrogen

Picture: eng.unimelb.edu.au

We are delighted to share that, Dr. Pratik Gholkar (our alumnus) along with his supervisors, Prof. Yogendra Shastri (IITB) and Prof. Akshat Tanksale (Monash) has has devised a new way to produce hydrogen and methane with significantly reduced carbon footprint using microalgae.  The study titled: ‘Renewable hydrogen and methane production from microalgae: A techno-economic and life cycle assessment study’ can be read here- https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0959652620337719

The research group has used reactive flash volatilisation (RFV) gasification technology to produce hydrogen using microalgae, giving rise to newer and cleaner forms of energy. Findings show the greenhouse gas emissions of hydrogen production using RFV on microalgae is 36% less compared to the steam reforming of methane gas – the current best practice for hydrogen production. With additional renewable energy processes, such as hydro-electricity, integrated with the researchers’ hydrogen production process, carbon emissions could drop by as much as 87%.

Currently, the production of microalgae does not meet commercial demand. However, microalgae cultivation for energy applications could also provide additional revenue streams for rural communities, potentially making them self-sufficient, researchers say.

Dr Pratik Gholkar, said “Assuming a market price of $10/kg for hydrogen compressed to 700 bar pressure, the payback period for hydrogen production was 3.78 years with nearly 25% investment return. Moreover, the life cycle climate change impact was 7.56 kg of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced,”

“This is an exciting look into the resources and technology available to the world in our quest to reduce the use of fossil fuels and drastically cut the amount of carbon emissions.”

Using India-based JSW Steel (the funding agency for this research) as a case study for their source of CO2 for microalgae cultivation, the research team estimated just under 12,800 kg an hour of microalgae would be available for hydrogen production at a rate of 1240 kg/h.

While the costs to develop infrastructure to cultivate microalgae and then refine it into hydrogen and methane are expensive, the overall return on investment in the long-term could make hydrogen and methane cost-effective and environmentally friendly fuel sources.

Dr Yogendra Shastri from the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Bombay said climate change concerns have led to an increasing push for cleaner energy options, and microalgae could be a potential candidate to produce renewable fuel. He said “Hydrogen is acknowledged as clean fuel since it doesn’t lead to the emission of greenhouse gases when used. However, the production of hydrogen also needs to be sustainable. Biodiesel production from microalgae is limited due to low lipid extraction efficiency, less than 20%, and the high cost of microalgae harvesting and drying. Furthermore, microalgae-based hydrogen and methane production haven’t yet been commercialised due to expensive pre-treatment, such as harvesting, drying and lipid extraction; low carbon conversion efficiency; and tar accumulation.”

Prof. Akshat Tanksale from Monash University said “Hydrogen and methane are clean sources of fuel and green chemical synthesis only if they are produced from renewable resources. At present, 96% of hydrogen and all methane is produced using non-renewable resources. Microalgae as a feedstock is attractive due to its high carbon dioxide fixation efficiency, growth rate, photosynthetic efficiency, ability to grow in brackish water – like rivers and lakes – and the ability to cultivate it on land not suitable for agriculture. Water and renewable electricity integration with microalgae harvesting can bring down the costs and increase the sustainability of hydrogen production from this process.”

The Academy’s collaboration with Michelin India

IITB-Monash Research Academy and  Michelin India Technology Centre in Pune signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 15 February 2021. It is designed to be an Umbrella Agreement between the two organizations for next generation sustainable mobility research. This partnership will be for a tenure of 5 years with several projects envisaged for development in the Mobility space in India. It will bring  involve doctoral students (PhD) from the Academy and Michelin’s global Research and Development DNA.  The projects will encompass a wide range of themes such as advanced computational engineering, materials, simulation and manufacture, infrastructure engineering, clean energy, water, nanotechnology, biotechnology and stem cell research.

During the signing ceremony, M.S. Unnikrishnan, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy said: “We really value our research partnership with Michelin, one of the most technologically advanced tire manufacturers of the world. IITB-Monash Research Academy in partnership with Michelin is aiming to conduct application oriented translational research. Professors from IIT Bombay and Monash University, Australia will team up with Michelin in this outcome oriented program targeted to create mobility oriented technologies of tomorrow”.

M.S Unnikrishnan (Left) and Dr. Arun Jaura (Right)

Dr. Arun Jaura, Managing Director Michelin India Technology Centre India, said: “Michelin’s R&D centers embody our Innovation DNA in various regions of the world. In India, Michelin R&D’s partnership with IITB-Monash Research Academy is a strategic lever used to foster the power and speed of innovation in the mobility ecosystem. In light of sustainability, this partnership will nurture talent and encourage PhD students to collaborate and create innovative mobility related solutions. This particular partnership will provide PhD students with exposure to technologies and experiences from 3 different continents – allowing them to access state of the art facilities, join forces with intellectual academic minds, and work alongside industry experts.”

The Academy and Michelin team

Eric Philippe Vinesse, Executive Vice President, Research & Development – Member of the Michelin Group Executive Committee said: “I am delighted about this partnership of Michelin in India with IITB-Monash Research Academy as it will enhance mutual development and stimulate stronger collaboration for sustainable mobility. In this evolving mobility ecosystem, this engagement will provide a solid platform for the PhD students from India, to appreciate and experience the strengths of Michelin’s innovation culture.”

About Michelin:
Michelin, the leading mobility company, is dedicated to enhancing its clients’ mobility, sustainably; designing and distributing the most suitable tires, services and solutions for its clients’ needs; providing digital services, maps and guides to help enrich trips and travels and make them unique experiences; and developing high-technology materials that serve a variety of industries. Headquartered in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Michelin is present in 170 countries, has more than 127,000 employees and operates 69 tire production facilities which together produced around 200 million tires in 2019.


Vibha Kumari

Vibha Kumari

Vibha Kumari completed her B.Sc. with honours in Biotechnology from College of Commerce, Magadh University (Patna, Bihar) in 2015. Later, she received her M.Sc. degree from School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) in 2017. In her master’s dissertation, she worked on “expression and purification of Influenza A virus matrix protein (M1) for raising polyclonal sera”. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. from IITB-Monash Research Academy, IIT Bombay and working on project “identification of human host factors required for human influenza virus assembly and budding”. She has qualified DBT-JRF and GATE (Biotechnology) in 2017. Apart from research work, she is passionate about Hindi literature, poem writing and Madhubani painting (folk art).

Link to student’s project: IMURA0684

Naman Joshi

Naman Joshi

Naman obtained his Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Electronics and Communication from CTAE, MPUAT govt. university Udaipur, Rajasthan and qualified GATE with 99 percentile in ECE stream. He completed post graduation in Information and Communication Technology from IIT Jodhpur and consequently started working in Airtel, Gurgaon. Later, he joined NIT Delhi and worked as an Assistant Professor. During his tenure in Academia, he developed strong interest in wireless mobile communication technologies (5th generation). Naman published some research papers in IEEE Journal and Conferences, on the topic of Performance Evaluation of FSO (Free Space Optical) communication systems. At IITB-Monash Research Academy, he is currently working on the project titled “Communication over wireless channels under secrecy constraints” under the supervision of Prof. Bikash K. Dey (IITB), Prof. Yi Hong and Prof. Emanuele Viterbo (Monash). In leisure time, Naman learns to play piano.

Link to student’s project: IMURA0443

Ananya Dasgupta

Ananya Dasgupta

Ananya Dasgupta holds a Masters degree in English Literature from Jadavpur University. Her M.A dissertation charted the significance of the railways as markers of modernity and mobility in Indian cinema. At IITB-Monash, her work largely deals with the generation of emotional consent in sustaining democracies. She is interested in working on women vigilantes and interrogating the limits of the law in determining popular conceptions of violence and justice. She enjoys fantasy and horror fiction, good conversation, and train rides.

Link to student’s project: HSS0489

Debmalya Santra

Debmalya Santra

Debmalya completed his M.Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science with a specialization in Materials science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, he completed his M.Sc in Applied Chemistry from University of Calcutta. During the M.Tech project he worked on perovskite nanomaterials for moisture to electricity conversion under the guidance of Prof. Aswani Yella at IITB. At IITB-Monash research academy, he will be working on “Solid-state lithium sulfur batteries for low temperature EV applications”. He will be guided by Prof. Sagar Mitra at IIT Bombay as well as by Prof. Douglas MacFarlane and Dr. Mega Kar from Monash University. Apart from studies he is also a member of Mars-rover-team IIT Bombay.

Link to student’s project: IMURA0856

Shefali Verma

Shefali Verma

Shefali Verma has always chosen challenging courses and have excellent academic records. Her academic achievement is also demonstrated by qualifying the entrance exams to pursue Bachelor of Engineering from a State Government Institute and Master of Technology from a Central Government Funded Institute, NIT Rourkela. She is self-confident, flexible and a hard-working student.

She is expertise in the field of dam break study, flood inundation mapping, preparing emergency action plans, setting up real-time flood forecasting models, and development of 2D models. Being a 2D Modeler in Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program (AIFRERMIP) funded by ADB, involved in developing 2D models for real-time flood forecasting for the Brahmaputra River, she is able to showcase her surface modelling abilities, numerical modelling abilities and knowledge in programming. She also has experience of handling different software such as MIKE HYDRO, MIKE 11 (HD & ST), MIKE FLOOD, HEC-RAS, ArcGIS. Everything she have engaged in so far has all been driven by her keen interest in Water resources.

As an active sociable individual, she enjoys staying fit and doing physical activities such as swimming, running and playing table tennis. She is also a Kathak dancer (form of Indian classical dance) and practice it in free time. Baking is one of her hobby and she enjoys meeting new people.

Link to student’s project: IMURA0769

Syed Abdul Mateen

Syed Abdul Mateen

I completed my Bachelors in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Srinagar in 2018. After that, I proceeded to do my MTech in the Environmental and Water Resources branch of Civil Engineering at IIT Hyderabad. Along with my coursework in the first year, I worked on various mini projects and got acquainted with multiple modelling software used in hydrology. I developed a keen interest in incorporating techniques from other engineering fields for the advancement of hydrological modelling.

Thus, as part of my Master’s thesis, a multi-spatial hybrid type of rainfall-runoff model with a conceptual (SAC-SMA) and a data-driven model (ANN) was developed and applied over the Godavari river basin. I am currently enrolled in the IITB-Monash joint PhD programme and working on the topic of “Effect of global warming on precipitation extremes in India” under the supervision of Prof. Basudev Biswal (IITB) and Prof. Marc Parlange (Monash). My hobbies are playing cricket, travelling and watching movies.

Link to student’s project: IMURA0825

Nabajit Deka

Nabajit Deka

Nabajit is an architect and a designer by profession. Prior to joining the PhD program at IITB-Monash Research Academy, he was engaged in academia as an educator. He has several years of industrial and teaching experience. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and a Master’s degree in Visual Communication, from the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, Ahmedabad. In 2008, as an undergraduate architecture student, he received a scholarship to attend an International exchange workshop program in Fachhochschule Erfurt University of Applied Science, Germany. For two weeks he worked with teams from India and Germany to develop a Universal Design for a Child Development Centre. His professional interests include Design Thinking, Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, User Experience Design, Information Design and Space Design.

His current area of research involves understanding and exploring the nuances of Design Thinking for Self Help Groups under the supervision of Prof. Sugandh Malhotra (IDC, IIT Bombay) and Prof. Gene Bawden & Prof. Ilya Fridman (Monash University, Australia). He is interested in understanding how Design Thinking process can transform Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Self Help Groups to address personal, social and business challenges. The project eventually aims to apply a process of action research to evaluate the design thinking process and to tailor that process into a feasible training program directed at self-help groups and national decision makers in India.

Apart from his research and academic curiosity, Nabajit likes to indulge himself in reading, writing, travelling, watching films & documentaries and solving the Rubik’s cube.

Link to student’s project: ID00752

Kushagra Tiwari

Kushagra Tiwari

Kushagra hails from Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh). He completed his master’s degree in the Mechanical Engineering Department from the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi. And a bachelor’s degree from Samrat Ashok Technological Institute, Vidisha. His interest lies in the field of additive manufacturing & its application. His thesis work during masters was titled “Analysis of the factors affecting the dimensional accuracy of 3D printed products”. Apart from this, Kushagra has a tremendous interest in sports, especially cricket. He has been the captain of the college cricket team. He will be working in the research theme of advanced computational engineering, simulation, and manufacturing under the supervision of Prof. A. Alankar (IIT Bombay), Prof. R. Singh (Monash University), and Prof. R. Jones (Monash University).

Link to student’s project: IMURA0917