Published: 16th June 2021
Five youngsters from AP are manufacturing briquettes from agro waste to make the world a better place
Briquettes are biofuels that leave behind organic residue and, all in all, are much better for the environment when compared to coal or petrol. This is why five people put their trust behind it
On half an acre of land in Anakapalle, a suburb of Visakhapatnam, housed inside a factory, a gentle beast purrs away — feasting on leftover sawdust from sawmills, bagasse (sugarcane waste) or the occasional groundnut shells and other agro waste. Once well-fed, it rewards one with round blocks, about 90 mm in diameter, called biofuel briquettes — a substitute to coal and charcoal.
Meet the 75-horsepower briquette press that's been churning out these briquettes (scientifically called a non-conventional source of renewable energy) since October 2018. Today, this mean machine processes up to seven to ten tons of raw material every day and provides briquette to five companies in Andhra Pradesh. Here's where you should congratulate Bollem Raja Kumar, Navya Vahini Rapeti (on whose land this factory is set up) and others who kept at this project from 2015, figuring out the machinery and procuring essential approvals for it to finally take off in 2018.
"I pursued my Master's in Spatial Informatics from IIIT Hyderabad so I understand how biomass is generated," states Raja Kumar. This served as a starting point for the sustainable project. The team started with sourcing sawdust from about 35 sawmills on a daily or weekly basis, or whatever was convenient for the mills. At any given point, 50 tons of raw material is available at the factory, this is the only metric they need to abide by. The rest of the agro waste is sourced from farmers around the suburb.
Sudhir Nemani, Harish Pallapati and Uday Chandra Oruganti are their teammates who deserve equal credit for their work on the briquette press
Before the briquette press devours the raw materials, they are put through the drying unit to reduce their moisture level to less than 15%. This is the major reason why one kilogram of their briquettes gives only 50 grams of ash, which can be used as manure in agricultural fields to see an increase in organic carbon in the soil. Though it might sound impressive and modern, the 30-year-old says that this is primitive technology. "If companies use coal to generate steam, they have to deal with the harmful residue sulfur. As a result, the health of their employees will need more attention. So what we try to do is make companies aware of our technology, which ticks a lot of boxes for them," he explains. Also, every kilogram of their briquette gives out four to five kg of steam, which is a pretty good recovery rate, we're led to believe. So far, one metal processing unit, one dairy farm, a pharma company and a few others have understood the value of their proposal and are putting it to good use.
With the briquettes
Another exciting product that is in the works is a smart welding machine that uses IoT to flag down any tech issues that may arise. "We are working on this, apart from four to five other products. There are many welding machines in the market but very few of them are actually smart," says Raja Kumar who took up NASA's Lunabotics Competition — a challenge that offers students the chance to build an autonomously operated mining robot — while pursuing his third year in Mechanical Engineering at GITAM. Also, in May 2013, Raja Kumar and his team built a beta version of a solar vehicle using which they went on a solar voyage across Andhra Pradesh. How cool is that?
Five members work on the briquettes and 11 on the smart welding machine
Apart from being a hardcore mechanical engineer, Raja Kumar is also a farmer along with being the Director of INOVMAC and Social Advancement Ventures Foundation. Talking about farming, on about seven acres of family land in Anumpalli, Prakasam District, the youngster, along with his uncle, grows cotton, red gram and millets using green chemistry technology, a chemical technique that is soil-friendly. This is what keeps him occupied during the Kharif season. He also nurses dreams of pursuing his higher education in the US in the field of healthcare, more specifically in cardiovascular science.
- What is biofuel?
Rather than using conventional fuel like petrol and coal, biofuel is produced through contemporary processes and is made of biomass
- What is biomass?
Renewable material derived from plants and animals. It is environment-friendly and the way to go in the long run for our planet
- What are briquettes?
Briquettes are a form of biofuel made from combustible biomass as an alternative to its more harmful companions, coal and petrol
- Why is biofuel better?
Reduces world's reliance on fossil fuel, reduces or even negates harmful residue or emissions and is better for our planet
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