For over a year, this 14-year-old has been obsessed with one quest: producing ethanol from rain tree fruits.

Inspired by one of his mentors who works in the field of alternative energy, he wanted to find a brand new method to produce ethanol so it could be mixed with conventional fuels and used in automobiles, says Aman Malali, a Class 10 student at the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Yeshwantpur.

He believes that his research can lead to alternatives or solutions to the fuel crisis. His project was among the top 90 shortlisted for the Google Science Fair 2013 from across the globe.

After many brainstorming sessions with his mentor Geeta Shirnalli, professor at the Department of Microbiology, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) - Dharwad, he decided to experiment with fruits of rain tree as they are rich in cellulose, making them suitable for the process. “Currently ethanol is produced from corn and sugarcane. But with the food crisis in the country, there is a need to find an alternative. So I decided to experiment with rain tree fruits. But I was extremely uncertain till the very end as it is a very laborious process and hasn’t been tried before.”

According to Aman, he collected the fruits, seeded them and cut them into small pieces before mixing them with dilute sulphuric acid. After straining the mixture, he added yeast and let the solution ferment. “The final process was to fractionally distil it to obtain pure alcohol, which is ethanol.”

It wasn’t all a bed of roses for the youngster. Since he needed a professional laboratory he often had to travel to Dharwad to use the UAS facility. The commute was time-consuming but it was well worth it at the end of the day, he says.

He gushes when asked about his feelings about science. “There is so much of creativity in science. You can play around with stuff. There is a need to break away from the textbook-oriented approach and learn things practically. That is when you will experience the joy of it.”

Aman hopes his work in the lab will not end with this project, and his research too will leave this lab.

“I want to optimise the cost so that ethanol can be produced from the fruits of rain tree as it is a wild fruit and has no economic purpose,” says this IIT aspirant.

Scientific temper

About Aman’s “scientific temper”, Ms. Shirnalli, says, “He is very enthusiastic and creative and is eager to explore new things. His passion towards science is remarkable.”

Although, Aman’s project did not make it to the top 15 Google Science Fair projects, he said he would continue his work on it. “I want to try and find new forms of renewable energy as there is a huge power crisis across the globe.”

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