Eco-Friendly and Cost Effective Production of Biodiesel

The energy demands of the world are increasing day by day at a substantial rate with increase in the world’s population. This high energy demand mainly depends on fossil fuel resources because they are the major contributors of energy and thus power generation. But, they are unsustainable sources because of their dwindling reserves and depleting nature. Also, its usage creates environmental pollution. The fossil fuel combustion causes the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are responsible for global warming. This is able to threaten both human beings and the environment. As a result of this, researchers are giving more attention for the search of alternative fuels which can fully replace the fossil fuels and can be produced from renewable feedstocks. Biofuels are renewable solutions to replace the ever dwindling energy reserves and environmentally pollutant fossil liquid fuels when they are produced from low cost sustainable feedstocks. Biodiesel is one of the environmental friendly, sustainable and renewable energy resources among the family of alternative fuels. It is a clean and ecofriendly fuel compared to the fossil fuel. Because of its renewability and better combustion nature it is known as a substitute for petroleum derived diesel fuel. Thus, they are believed to be the future fuels for the transportation sector instead of the polluting fossil fuels. 

​Generally, biodiesel is produced from vegetable oil, algal oil or animal fat as feed stock through a homogeneous or heterogeneous catalytic process called transesterification. The alcohols utilized for transesterification process are generally methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, etc. Most frequently used alcohols are methanol and ethanol. Due to the low cost, physical and chemical advantages methanol is commonly employed. Among the catalytic processes that are used in the production of biodiesel, heterogeneously catalyzed processes are often considered to be inherently green due to the following features: easier separation and purification of biodiesel from glycerol thereby reducing the process steps, cost effective and reusable nature of catalyst. The activity of the solid catalyst determines the effectiveness of the heterogeneous catalytic reaction. The heterogeneous catalysts are potentially low cost and can solve many of the problems encountered in homogeneous catalysts. The conversion of triglycerides into methyl ester and glycerol takes place slowly but the biodiesel is produced in a very feasible economic way when it follows the heterogeneous catalytic reaction. Base and acid are two types of heterogeneous catalysts used for biodiesel production. Most of them prefer solid base catalysts since it is found to be more active than acid catalyst in the sense that it requires lower reaction time and temperature. Researchers are focusing more on heterogeneous base catalysis as a promising way to produce biodiesel since it follows a green route for the conversion of biomass into biodiesel. The development of new and cost effective heterogeneous catalyst for transesterification of low cost vegetable oils can decrease the total production cost of biodiesel. The goals of green chemistry have to be achieved for the environmental protection as well as sustainable development. The utilization of cost effective renewable energy resources and the development of eco-friendly reusable heterogeneous catalysts together solves many of the issues regarding the biodiesel production process. In the present investigation, we have developed different heterogeneous catalysts and they are used in the transesterification reaction of vegetable oils that are produced from renewable resources for the production of biodiesel. Thus, the present investigation can make the biodiesel industry cost effective and greener.

​The present investigation had developed different heterogeneous catalysts by employing alkali metal sources and different precursor materials. The developed catalysts are, sodium aluminates, lithium silicates, Na loaded CeO2 catalysts, sodium titanate and sodium silicates. Sodium aluminate is prepared from waste aluminium foils following an easy and low cost method. The crystalline NaAlO2 showed high efficiency in the production of biodiesel from jatropha curcas oil. Lithium silicate prepared by a simple method of impregnation shows excellent activity in the transesterification reaction of waste cooking oil. Ceria is prepared via a simple and inexpensive method and NaOH is incorporated to the ceria support by the impregnation method to develop a novel Na/CeOcatalyst which is highly active in the methanolysis of waste cooking oil for the production of biodiesel. Porous titania is prepared by sol-gel method using a surfactant and the developed titania is used as the precursor material for the preparation of sodium titanate nanotubes. The sodium titanate exhibits outstanding performance in the transesterification of waste cooking oil. Sodium silicate is prepared from silica and NaOH and had employed the catalytic activity in the transesterification reaction of waste cooking oil.

Dr. Sudha

SARS-Cov-2 can survive on smooth surface like mobile phones, bank notes, glass, steel for about 28 day: CSIRO- Australia

SARS corona virus (SARS-CoV) virus identified in 2003, is a large family of virus causing common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Scientists first identified a human corona virus in 1965. In early 2020, after the outbreak of the disease in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered SARS-CoV-2 as a new type of virus. Any updates regarding the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) are given high priority not only because it is contagious but also due to the profound epidemiological sustenance.

A study conducted by the CSIRO- Australia on the survival and persistence of SARS-CoV-2 reports the viability of virus for at least 28 days in cold temperatures. The research conducted to study the survival and persistence of SARS-Cov-2 on different surfaces like cotton, glass, steel, paper, plastic at 40 degree Celsius, 30 degree Celsius and 20 degree Celsius bring out the fact that the virus can survive longer on smooth surfaces and cold temperatures. The study also says that the protein and fluids in the body are also potential sources of viral contamination and therefore warns the viral contamination possibilities in meat processing units and cold storage. The study clearly asserts the need for frequent washing of hands, maintaining respiratory hygiene, cleaning of the surfaces frequently with alcohol-based sanitizers or disinfectants, wearing masks and social distancing as per WHO guidelines.

Who and How was the study conducted?

The research was conducted by the CSIRO-Australia, Australia’s National Science Agency, in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence, in collaboration with 5 national Research and Development (5RD) council, which have representatives from UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The research was undertaken at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, Victoria. The study “The effect of temperature of SARS-Cov-2 on common surfaces” was published in the Virology journal on October 11, 2020.

The main objective of the study was to find the behaviour of the virus on different surfaces which are commonly used by human and persistence of the virus in different temperatures on these surfaces. The research involved drying virus in an artificial mucus on different surfaces, at concentrations similar to viral load of infected patients. The lab condition was maintained in a state of darkness to eliminate any possible Ultra Violet light contamination, as it is already proved that UV rays or exposure to direct sunlight kills the virus. The three different temperature conditions of each substances were also maintained. The virus from these surfaces were re-isolated after a month.

The findings of the study can be briefed as follows.

At 40 degree CelsiusCottonLess than 16 hours

Glass, Steel, Paper and polymer bank notes24 hours

Vinyl48 hours
At 30 degree CelsiusCotton, Vinyl3 days

Glass, Steel, polymer bank notes7 days

Paper banknotes21 days
At 20 degree CelsiusCotton14 days

Glass, Steel, Polymer and Paper Banknotes, VinylAt least 28 days

At 40 degree Celsius, the virus survived on cotton for less than 16 hours, on smooth non porous surfaces such as glass, stainless steel for 24 hours and on vinyl or plastic for 48 hours. At 30 degree Celsius, it survived for 3 days, on glass, steel, and vinyl for 7 days and on paper banknotes for 21 days. At 20 degree Celsius, virus survived longer as much as 14 days and on as glass, stainless steel, plastic and paper bank notes for at least 28 days.

The virus survived longer at low temperatures and smooth non porous surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, plastic for about 28 days compared to nonporous complex substances such as cotton.
Proteins and fats in body fluids can also significantly increase the survival time of the virus.

The study also addresses the survival, persistence and spread of the virus in meat processing facilities with high protein and fat contamination and cold environments. Thousands of workers have tested positive at meat processing factories and abattoirs around the world. The CSIRO researchers also say their findings support previous research suggesting the virus can survive on fresh and frozen food. Other reasons previously suggested include closed working conditions, cold and damp environments and the need to shout over noisy machinery.

The virus survivability and virulence depend on the type of the virus, quantity, the surfaces, environmental conditions and how the virus was deposited that is by touch or it was deposited by droplet emission, Professor Trevor Drew, Director of ACDP said. (Eurekalert)

Disagreements with the study

The data by CSIRO Australia shows the persistence of virus a lot higher than what we have known previously. One fact to be kept in mind was that the study was conducted in strict lab, viral friendly conditions where the virus was not exposed to sunlight/UV rays. But in daily life one way or another we are exposed to sunlight, but the study does remind us the need to sanitize and clean our hands and surfaces frequently, and also to expose the contaminated substances to direct sunlight.

But WHO clearly states that exposing yourself to the sun or temperatures higher than 25°C DOES NOT protect you from COVID-19. The infection can transmit no matter how sunny or hot the weather is, as counties with hot weather have also reported cases of COVID-19. Also, the normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather. The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water and maintaining respiratory hygiene.

Gerchman and (2020) studied the sensitivity of human Coronavirus (HCoV-OC43 used as SARS-CoV-2 surrogate) to UV LED and found that it was wavelength dependent with 267 nm ~ 279 nm > 286 nm > 297 nm. The results suggested that UV LED with peak emission at ~286 nm could serve as an effective tool in the fight against human Coronaviruses. Although UV radiation has been proved to kill Corona virus, it is not recommended to expose hands and body to Ultra-violet (UV) lamps as UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes.

In addition, the CSIR research was conducted on artificial mucus. Prof Ron Eccles, former director Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, differ from the findings of CSIR on basis that fresh mucus is a hostile environment for viruses as it contains lots of white blood cells that produce enzymes to destroy viruses and can also contain antibodies and other chemicals to neutralise viruses. Corona virus can only survive for a few hours in saliva or mucus. “Viruses are spread on surfaces from mucus in coughs and sneezes and dirty fingers and this study did not use fresh human mucus as a vehicle to spread the virus,” he said. (BBC News)

What were the previous findings?

The previous knowledge about the persistence of SARS-Cov-2 listed the survival ability from few hours to 4 days. But still ascertains the need of hand hygiene, social distancing and cleaning of surfaces frequently to avoid cross contamination. The study by Van Doremalan and (2020) found that both the SARS-CoV and SARS-Cov-2 remain viable in aerosols for about 3 hours. Both the strains are more stable and persistent on soft non porous substances.

Plastic, Stainless steel72 hours72 hours
Copper4 hours8 hours
Cardboard24 hours8 hours
Glass84 hours96 hours

Duan SM and, (2003) a member of SARS Research team, in their research on “Stability of SARS coronavirus in human specimens and environment and its sensitivity to heating and UV irradiation” found that SARS coronavirus in the testing condition could survive in serum, in 1:20 diluted sputum and in faeces for at least 96 h, whereas it could remain alive in urine for at least 72 h with a low level of infectivity. The virus was stable at 4 degree Celsius, and survived in room temperature (20 degree Celsius) and 37 degree Celsius for about 2 hours. The study also reports that at 90minutes exposure at 56 degree Celsius, 60 minutes exposure at 67 degree Celsius, 30 minutes exposure at 75 degree Celsius, the virus was converted to non- virulent form.

Most viruses from the respiratory tract, such as coronaviruses, influenza, SARS-CoV, or rhinovirus, can persist on surfaces for a few days. Persistence time on inanimate surfaces varied from minutes to up to one month, depending on the environmental conditions. Absorbent materials like cotton are safer than unabsorbent materials for protection from virus infection. The risk of transmission via touching contaminated paper is low. (Ren, 20220).

What is the normal mode of transmission?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a highly contagious virus that can transmit through respiratory droplets, aerosols, or contacts. Frequent touching of contaminated surfaces in public areas is therefore a potential route of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. The inanimate surfaces have often been described as a source of nosocomial infections. The common mode of transmission also includes self-inoculation of virus to the nasal mucosa and conjunctiva with contaminated hands. (Judson and Munster, 2019). Besides the recent studies in China found that faecal contamination caused by the infected person spreads the SARS-CoV-2 after they detected live infectious agents in patient’s stools (Wang et. Al. 2020). The WHO has intimated that certain hospital procedures would also generate aerosols under specific circumstances: endotracheal intubation, bronchoscopy, open suctioning, administration of nebulized treatment, manual ventilation before intubation, turning the patient to the prone position, disconnecting the patient from the ventilator, non-invasive positive-pressure ventilation, tracheostomy, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (WHO, 2020).

The study by Papineni and Rosenthal (1997 ) says that the highest aerosol densities were generated during coughing (virus particles few hundred to thousand) and sneezing ( virus particles few hundred thousand to few millions )and the lowest from normal nasal breathing (none to few), of which exhaled breath (few to few hundred) would be more responsible in transmitting the viruses (size of the order of 0.1 μm) when compared with transmitting the bacteria (> 1 μm). Heavy droplets will be heavy to remain in the air and fall on nearby floor or surfaces. Fomites collect droplets contaminated with virus and act as potent source of cross infection. The bioaerosols with relatively smaller aerodynamic diameter are capable of infecting people as the virus encapsulated in saliva get evaporated and these evaporated residues linger in the air for longer periods (Morawska, 2006). SARS-CoV-2 is found to be more contagious and have more epidemiological sustenance because of the high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the capability of the persons infected to shed viral particles and transmit to more persons while remaining asymptomatic. (Bai 2020; Zon 2020).

How can we survive along with Corona pandemic?

The World Health Organization lists a number of precautions you can take to avoid getting infected. WHO asserts that the best way to protect ourselves against the new corona virus is to keep at least 1 meter distance from others, washing our hands frequently and thoroughly, using masks to cover nose and mouth and maintaining respiratory hygiene, use masks to cover nose and mouth. It is also beneficial for your general health to maintain a balanced diet, stay well hydrated, exercise regularly and sleep well. It also advised to take micro-nutrients, such as vitamins D and C and zinc, as they are critical for a well-functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being. Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic or other foods has protected people from the new corona virus.


The facts for and against the results regarding the persistence and viability of SARS-CoV-2 establishes that the viral viability increases with low temperatures on soft, smooth non porous substances for at least 28 days, in controlled viral friendly conditions. In the same conditions the Influenza virus survived only for 17 days. However, the behavior, virulence and persistence of the virus in the normal body temperature, environmental conditions and human saliva may vary. The previously reported facts suggest that the virus is sensitive to high temperatures and UV light, which can be used as potent tools to eradicate the virus from contaminated inanimate surfaces. But as the mode of transmission still being aerosols, droplets, self-inoculation to nasal and conjunctiva mucosa, faeces, hospital procedures and fomites the practical and possible way to prevent being infected is using three layered masks, social distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, cleaning of possible contaminated surfaces frequently, disinfecting plastic food packages etc. To prevent self-inoculation the best advisable way is to avoid touching face with contaminated hands and use, clean and dispose masks properly as per WHO guidelines.


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By Lisha Appukuttan

Let’s cool our warming planet: Fundamental Science meets new technology

Recent scientific reports from University of California on the title “electricity free cooling system”are focused the development of  thin film engineering to maximise radiative cooling on a molecular level. The film sends heat into space from the earth atmosphere thereby utilising the loophole of the green house effect.

The research on radiative cooling reveals its potential for applications in highly efficient passive cooling. This approach utilizes the maximized emission of infrared (IR) thermal radiation through the newly engineered material windows for releasing heat and minimized absorption of incoming atmospheric radiation. Although the application of radiative cooling for night time cooling was demonstrated a few years ago, significant cooling under direct sunlight has been achieved only recently.

The Earth atmosphere continuously radiate infrared thermal radiation to balance the heat energy due to the absorption of visible light from the sun. Earth’s balanced radiative cooling system disrupted due to climate change. The greenhouse gases created by human activities block infrared radiation and trapping it in the Earth’s inner atmosphere. The planet Earth is more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the preindustrial era, scientists say humanity must reduce emissions by 7 percent per year to avoid more catastrophic effects.

Radiative cooling thin film developed by A. P. Raman and colleague, published in Nature 2014, 515, 540.

Thermal Infrared radiation spans a range of longer wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Earth’s atmosphere blocks some outgoing IR radiation and it’s blocking even more now due to greenhouse gases. But there are “windows” in the atmosphere that electromagnetic waves of particular wavelength can slip through. The scientists have to find a way to craft thin film from many microscopic layers. The thickness and composition of these layers were engineered to interfere with the way different wavelengths of light travel. Incoming solar radiation would rebound right back into space. Outgoing thermal IR radiation would bounce around between the layers, only the desired IR wavelengths would be able to escape.