Sentient Labs, an R&D innovation lab, and MACS-Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), have jointly developed the technology that generates hydrogen directly from agricultural residue for use in fuel cell-powered vehicles.
Sentient Labs’ will build technology solutions for the electrification of mobility. It has identified bottlenecks in battery technology, fuel cell technologies, and technologies for hydrogen generation. Multiple efforts are underway to create the building blocks necessary for sustainable mobility.
MACS-Agharkar Research Institute has been working towards developing solutions that are appropriate for national use. It will conduct basic as well as applied research in life sciences and harness the genetic diversity of microbes for bio-energy generation.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology is estimated to be the next big step in the direction of sustainable mobility as it provides a large operating range, is suitable for commercial vehicles, and leaves a minimal environmental footprint. The need of the hour in crude oil-importing nations is to rapidly move towards self-reliant energy sources and sustainable mobility. The hydrogen generated from this technology will be utilised to power fuel cell vehicles that emit only water, thus making the entire cycle pollution-free.
This hydrogen generation technology uses agricultural residue, rich in cellulose and hemicellulose content from crops like paddy, wheat, or maize residue. The process uses microbial culture for the direct generation of hydrogen from agricultural residues. It further generates methane, which is utilised for producing additional hydrogen by steam methane reformation. This process can avoid the burning of bio-mass generated in large measure in the Indian countryside and generate organic manure and CO2, which finds applications in various industries.
A pertinent sustainability aspect of the innovation is that it models the circular economy. In India, approximately 200 million tonnes of unutilised agricultural residue is generated. This agricultural residue, which is burnt in most cases, can be fed into this process to generate hydrogen.
Highlighting the development, Ravi Pandit, Chairman, Sentient Labs said, “This breakthrough of generating hydrogen from unutilised agricultural residue will help us become self-reliant on energy resources. It will also add a major stream of revenue to the farmer community. We will continue R&D and invite partners to come on board for production and commercialising the same.”
Speaking on the R&D towards generating Hydrogen from agricultural residue, Dr Prashant Dhakephalkar, Director, Agharkar Research Institute, said, “Our technology is 25 per cent more efficient as compared to conventional anaerobic digestion processes used today. The innovative two-stage process eliminates the pre-treatment of the biomass, thus making the process economical and environment friendly. This biologically benign process generates a digestive rich in nutrients which can be used as organic fertiliser. Its by-products can be used as soil conditioners while undigested solids for briquetting that can be sold as solid fuel”
Pawan Sharma, President & CEO, Sentient Labs said, “The milestone in collaboration with Sentient Labs has the potential to radically transform the agricultural industry and garner new sources of value-creation. It will improve India’s self-reliance in creating cleaner and sustainable solutions for the energy and transportation sectors.”
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