Scientists from a consortium of nine central laboratories have undertaken a project to discover potential of making bio fuel commercially from microalgae.

The project called “New Millennium India Technology Leadership Initiative” (NMITLI) - initiated by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2006 to develop a scalable commercial model of producing biofuel from microbes has taken off recently and research has got underway.

“Members of the nine inter laboratory consortium shall be assessing techno-economic viability of making bio diesel from microalgae,” Director of the Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) Pushpito Ghosh said.

The objective of this project is to create primary reliable data bank and also assess techno feasibility of commercial production of bio diesel from microalgae using core research strength of each of the consortium laboratory.

World over a general belief prevails that microalgae can grow very fast and is able to produce large amount of bio-mass.

“But, when it comes to putting them (microalgae) in use for manufacturing high volume and low value products like bio diesel then not many practical established processes are still known,” Mr. Ghosh said.

“The focus will be on looking at two or three varieties of lipid producing microalgae which has the potential to manufacture bio diesel at commercial scale,” Mr. Ghosh said.

“The possibility of putting effluents and exhaustive gases emitted from the thermal power plant to productive use shall be explored as part of this project to enhance growth,” he said.

“We will explore if emissions from thermal power plants can be used to accelerate photosynthesis process using the type of CO2 emissions from it and them reverse the process to convert it into lipids,” Mr. Ghosh said.

Microalgae are usually found in sea or along the coast lines. They are presently being used to manufacture protein supplements like Spirulina, which are low volume and high value products.

The inter laboratory consortium comprise CSMCRI, Department of Marine Living Resources, Andhra University in Vishakhapatnam, Calcutta University in Kolkata, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) of Hyderabad, IIT-Kharagpur, National Chemical Laboratory at Pune, National Institute of Oceanography at Goa, National Institute of Ocean Technology - Chennai and National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology of Thiruvananthapuram.