Kochi: The SCMS Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology Research & Development, Kochi, has successfully developed the process for standardising the production of coconut methyl ester (CME) from coconut oil, which can power diesel automobile engines.
The functional property of CME was proved in a diesel vehicle by test-running it directly as biofuel without making modifications in the engine and in the fuel lines. The research comprised optimisation of the production of CME from coconut oil, study of its physicochemical properties and testing its efficacy as a fuel in a diesel engine.
Headed by Dr C. Mohan Kumar, the study lasted about 20 months and the centre has filed for a US patent. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Central government has offered to fund further research into it.
“The physicochemical properties of the coconut oil and its increased level of saturation with high percentage of lauric acid are the unique features that support the fuel quality of coconut oil compared to the biofuels developed from other vegetable oils,” Dr Mohan Kumar told DC. “Coconut oil has one of the least shares of free fatty acids, which qualifies it as a possible fuel. For a fuel, its value should ideally be below .5 per cent, but for coconut oil, it is 0.2 per cent.”
The comparative study of CME with diesel was conducted at the quality control lab of the BPCL Cochin refinery, which certified that the CME more than met the standards of diesel, and performed better on emission norms.
“The low carbon residue, sulphur content and the total contaminant obviously make the coconut biofuel eco-friendly,” Dr Mohan Kumar said.
The centre collaborated with the automobile engineering department of the SCMS Engineering College, Kochi, for the test run in a Matador diesel engine. The test run showed the technical specifications such as torque and power similar to the efficiency of diesel fuel. It offered a higher mileage of 22.5 km/L than 16 km/L of diesel.