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Indian students build machine to convert cooking oil to biodiesel

A team of three Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-D) students have come up with a prototype called FAME One to convert waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

The invention, which outwardly resembles a washing machine, is not only eco-friendly but also affordable, which open doors for its use in rural setups to convert oil seeds into diesel.

“We read somewhere that India generates the highest amount of waste cooking oil and this is what drove us towards creating a technology that could actually compensate for more that 30% of the country’s energy deficit. If people adapt to this change we can have a better India,” student Mohit Soni told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

The students have runs feasibility tests on the machine and results show that it provides an efficient way to not only cut down on diesel usage, but also sustainably dispose of the waste oil that hotels generate every day.

“The project in its current state is suitable for big hotels, while for an individual consumer this technology may need further development. The demand for eco-living is not very high in the Indian setup as of now, but people will gradually realise its value,” said Harshit Agarwal, who worked on the innovation. 

Yet the young innovators are not alone in the project, and the development process of the oil converter is being supervised by Ashok N Bhaskarwar from ITT-D’s department of chemical engineering.

Bhaskarwar helps the students add automation, generate possible sources of intellectual property rights, and conform to the global quality standards.

Unlocking India’s potential

Despite having the potential to become a major biodiesel producer, India contributes a meagre 0.1% to global biodiesel production.

The three students feel that hours spent in collecting waste cooking oil from their own homes and the hostel mess was finally worth the trouble. 

“If India produces so much waste cooking oil, we thought that there has to be a way to use it in a productive manner. So we connected with hotel chains and utilised the oil that gets wasted every day,” said Mohit. 

The new converter utilises the trans-esterification process, and apart from waste cooking oil, it requires water, alcohol, and a catalyst.

The amount of biodiesel generated is the same as the amount of oil fed into the system, which costs 30,000 Indian rupees (appr. €400).

The students, who recently won the GE Edison challenge and a cash prize of 1 million rupees, plan to use their prize money on further research on the product and its market launch.