Enhanced biomass production and energy conversion for use in water-scarce areas of India

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


The provision of modern energy services is an essential part of alleviating poverty in India and the developing world. Traditionally, biomass has been and remains the principal source of energy for many and it is likely to be a major energy resource of the future. However, the distributed and low-grade nature of biomass makes it essential to introduce more effective means of production and use.Biomass production requires water and land which are also needed for other purposes. Therefore it is important to take a holistic view when it comes to making the best use of these finite resources. Rather than viewing energy conversion in isolation, our approach is to introduce technologies having multiple benefits. Thus, we will set up a plantation in the village of Manpura (representative of isolated communities in Rajasthan) to grow crops which can yield not only energy but also food, fodder, soap and botanical pesticides. In Faridabad (a small town in Haryana state) we will grow energy crops but at the same time treat sewage. A small scale tri-generation system, fuelled by biomass, will be developed to provide electricity, ice for food preservation, heat for drying crops and/or pure water for drinking.The development and transfer of these technologies makes use of a great deal of expertise already developed in the UK. For example, the development of the tri-generation system builds on work on refrigeration accomplished at the University of Warwick while introducing the new challenge of making a small-scale device suited to use in developing countries. The work on solar distillation at Aston builds on experience gained in earlier overseas projects but aims to develop UK capacity in this area of growing importance. The combination of sewage-treatment with energy plantations is well tried through recent projects in the UK and Europe; but India presents a whole new set of constraints which need to be taken into consideration.Any technology could fail if specified by the provider rather than by the user and this is especially true when the two are geographically and culturally remote from each other. To minimise this risk, a key element of the work will be the identification of socio-economic success factors through interviews, focus groups and observations in India, facilitated by our partners at IIT-Delhi.The socio-economic study will enable success to be measured where these projects are implemented; but to go beyond that we will carry out modelling, taking into account both the physical systems (plantation, engine, refrigerator, etc.) and the human participants. This modelling will enable us to investigate a variety of future scenarios in which the technologies are implemented.This project is a consortium among the universities of Aston, Warwick, Leeds, Bristol and Coventry with assistance from WRc and in close collaboration with IIT-Delhi.


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Description This project is a consortium among the universities of Aston, Warwick, Leeds, Bristol and Coventry with assistance from WRc and in close collaboration with IIT-Delhi.

This project has focussed on energy from biomass and wastewater management to grow biomass. In addition, desalination of groundwater was addressed through the development of new approaches to make use of the concentrated salt water which is a waste by-product of desalination and normally poses problems of disposal. It was demonstrated that this wastewater can be used for space cooling including the cooling of greenhouses for growing crops. Three woody plantations have been implemented using wastewater for irrigation: one in a small town in Rajasthan where wastewater was taken from the village pond, one at a municipal wastewater treatment plant near Delhi where the water was taken from maturation ponds, and another at the University campus at GB Pantnagar where greywater from campus residences was re-used.

At the core of the energy work was a tri-generation system consisting of a small Diesel engine (about 10 kW shaft power) running on plant oils and producing electricity, heat for water treatment and cooking, and ice. In tests carried out in both UK and India, the use of non-edible plant oils (mainly Jatropha and Pongamia) was confirmed to be a practical and often economic approach compared to conventional fossil fuel. Engine performance and emissions were broadly comparable to fossil diesel fuel. A multiple effect distillation (MED) system was developed to take advantage of the engine waste heat and devices for food preparation using this heat were also developed. The MED machine was tested at several locations and shown to be effective in removing many contaminants, including arsenic and fluoride.

The work at Warwick focussed on construction and test of a novel adsorptoion ice-maker to be integrated with the engine. The icemaker was constructed based on the carbon-ammonia adsorption cycle. The design calculations showed that a two-stage system comprising four adsorbers was needed because of the relatively small temperature difference between the engine jacket temperature, used to drive the system, and the ambient sink temperature. For the design of the adsorbers, a tube-and-fin construction method was chosen because it may be replicated readily without specialist manufacturing capability. However, the performance of the icemaker was seriously hindered by problems of slow internal heat transfer. Work to overcome this problem is on-going.