17/04/2015 1:53 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

IIT Delhi Students Attempt To Find Solution To Energy Crisis, Global Warming

A traffic policeman wears a mask and controls traffic on a busy road in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Air pollution kills millions of people every year, including more than 627,000 in India, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO puts 13 Indian cities in the world's 20 most polluted. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

NEW DELHI — When world leaders are hosting meetings and discussions to cope up with global warming, energy crisis and depleting resources, a group of students at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi are attempting to find a single solution to all the three environmental issues.

The project, which in several interesting steps converts the casual agent of one of the problems into a key to solving the other two, will be displayed and demonstrated at the 11th IIT Open House on April 18 here at the institute.

The alarming concentration of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), one of the main contributors to global warming, has raised the need for minimising generation and sequestration of the gas.

The research group here at IIT Delhi, under the leadership of Associate Professor Anil Verma, has attempted to reduce quantity of pollutant in air but also convert it into several valuable products.

"We are involved in electrochemical conversion of CO2 and found that CO2 can be used to generate methane and other valuable products," Verma, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the technology institute says.

The conversion of carbon-dioxide into methane has been using renewable sources of energy like sun or wind.

Verma says that conventionally the gas is dissolved into a solvent during conversion. His team, instead captures the gas directly in a reactor where it is converted into methane and other products like formic acid and hydrogen gas.

"We have developed such a reactor in the lab and converted CO2 to methane and some other value added products," Verma, who has been working on this project with the team for nearly seven years now, says.

This process, he adds, saves both time and money.

In this intriguing chemical reaction, while the solar of wind energy is used for the conversion, it is also being stored in the methane that is being formed as a product.

The methane, therefore, besides being used as a fuel for transportation, also serves as a repository of energy, which can later be put to use, offering relief to the exponentially depleting non-renewable sources of energy like coal and petroleum.

"Thus, conversion of CO2 will reduce global warming effect; methane that is produced can directly be used as fuel for transportation, and the solar or wind energy used for the process is stored in the fuel that can easily be transported using the present infrastructure and utilised whenever required," Verma explains.

However, Verma does mention about the several challenges that are being faced in the process, the major one being, "poisoning of the catalyst."

"The catalyst that speeds up the reaction gets used up before the reaction is complete," Verma explains adding that they are on the look out for scholars who can take up the poisoning issue and offer a solution.

Mainly targeted at school students, 14 departments and 11 centres of the institute are set to exhibit more than 70 innovative student projects and 400 research posters.

Research works that will be on display at the Open House include nanomaterial based device for water purification, portable and low cost device for early detection of infectious disease. A set of assistive technology projects designed to aid visually impaired people, include 'OnBoard' a bus identification system.

An annual event, IIT Open House, offers an insight into revolutionary research work, student projects and numerous advanced facilities and laboratories at IIT Delhi.

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