Gobar Times

Letters - February 15 2010

Dear Panditji,

I am pursuing post graduation in Environmental Sciences. I need to do a project for my final semester. I can take up any project related to any aspect of environmental sciences. Can you suggest some ideas. I want to do a project which is a bit different from the regular ones like water testing analysis, soil quality analysis etc.

Via email

Dear Jyoti ji,

Firstly, congratulations for choosing the subject of Environmental Sciences for your higher studies. I am happy that you are searching for a ‘different’ project idea and not just fishing for good grades. This shows your liking for the subject! After scratching my brain for long, I came up with this - How about making bio-fuel in your laboratory? As you know, the demand for a sustainable energy source is what is driving the world and bio-fuels might just be the answer. So, get going! (Do wear our rubber gloves and safety goggles before you begin)

   Items needed:   

  • Kitchen blender
  • Beakers (one 1500ml, one 500ml and one 20ml)
  • Graduated syringe or eye dropper
  • A petri dish
  • 4 litre (1 gallon) waste vegetable oil
  • 5 grams Lye (KOH) 1 bottle Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)
  • 1 litre distilled Water
  • 1 bottle of Phenolphthalein Solution (pH indicator)
  • 1 bottle of methanol / ethanol

   Step 1 – Titration:    

Titration helps determine how much catalyst you must add by indicating the acidity of your oil.

  • Measure out 1g of lye (KOH) in your petri dish. Then dissolve into one litre of distilled water.
  • In a 20ml beaker, dissolve 1ml of vegetable oil into 10ml of isopropyl alcohol.
  • Swirl or warm very gently to dissolve the oil into alcohol and make the solution clear.
  • Add 2 drops of pH indicator to this mixture and swirl to dissolve.
  • Using your syringe or eye dropper, add 1 ml (only!) of lye solution to the alcohol and oil solution.
  • Continue adding 1 ml at a time, swirling continuously, until it turns hot pink and holds its colour for at least ten seconds.

The number of millilitres of lye solution used, plus 3.5, equals the number of grams of lye you’ll need per litre of oil.

    Step 2 – Brewing:   

  • Measure out 1 litre of filtered waste vegetable oil in your 1500ml beaker.
  • Measure out 200ml of methanol in your 500ml beaker.
  • Measure the number of grams of lye that you calculated during titration in your petri dish.
  • Pour methanol into your blender. Add lye.
  • Blend at low speed until fully dissolved. This reaction creates sodium methoxide.
  • Because of rapid evaporation, the rest of the process must be done straightaway. Be careful not to inhale or ingest this stuff!
  • Pour filtered vegetable oil into sodium methoxide solution in blender and mix for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • After blending, the mixture must be left alone to settle for at least eight hours, at which point you will have two layers-glycerine on the bottom and biodiesel on top. The biodiesel (which is non-toxic) goes into the tank of your car. Done. Do get back to me about how the experiment turned out. http://www.inhabitat.com/2006/05/17/gas-prices-got-you-down-makeyour-own...

    "Muck Mail"   

Dear Pandit ji,

I want to bring to light the importance of Neem as the wonder drug. It finds application in mosquito coils, especially when combined with Eucalyptus and Tulsi. Not only this, mere planting of Neem and Tulsi tree around your house also cuts down mosquito attacks, and also act as air freshners. Syrups and tonics of Neem can be used as a cure for diabetes, skin problems, and general wounds. Neem finds great use in animal husbandry, too.

Via email

Dear Pandit ji,

I represent Sri Prakash Vidya Niketan in Visakhapatnam. We have a chain of over 14 colleges and schools situated around here. I am a guest faculty and have often taken advice from copies of Gobar Times and shared it. I make efforts to sensitise one and all on environmental issues. At our school, we have huge amounts of paper collected every year, like used note books, stationary, newsletters, newspapers etc. The  children and also our Director would like to put a recycle paper unit where all this paper can be recycled and reused. There are units that I found via google but these turned out to be very expensive. Can you help?

Jayshree H
via email

Dear Jayshree ji,

Paper recycling units do cost upto 1.5 lakhs, which is expensive for an individual. Sometimes state governments offer financial support to schools. Tell the officials about the volumes your school chain generates. http://taramachines.com/Mini_Paper_Recycling_
Unit.aspx Other wise, each class can do their recycling separately, too, the way we have described many times in our magazine. For this, all you would need will be a mixer and grinder and a huge mesh and tubs. See the following URL. http://www.gobartimes.org/20100115/gt_covfeature1.asp

Dear Pandit ji,

Its been my dream to become an environmental engineer for as long as I can remember!! And now, I’m in my most crucial year. I stay in bangalore and there are no Environmental engineering courses here. Environmental Sciences is available but I want to do engineering and nothing else. A few friends suggested that I do civil or chemical engineering first, and then environmental engineering. I’m really confused! Which are the colleges where environmental engineering is available in south india. Is there any scope for environmental engineers in India?

Medha Ravi
Via email

Dear Medha ji,

Welcome aboard the green brigade. You indeed have made the right career choice. The demand for green engineers is considerable. Here, look at the places, which will help you pursue your interest (B. Tech in Environmental Engineering):

  • Delhi College of Engineering, New Delhi
  • L D College of Engineering, Ahmadabad
  • P E S College of Engineering, Chikmangalur
  • Mandya Kolhapur Institute of Technology, Kolhapur

And in case you decide to do post graduation in Environmental engineering then it is available at:

  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai,
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
  • G S Institute of Technology, Indore
  • Jadavpur University, Calcutta
  • University of Roorkee,
  • Delhi College of Engineering, New Delhi
  • Govt College of Technology, Coimbatore
  • Victoria Jubilee Technology Institute (VRCE), Matunga, Mumbai
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Regional College of Engineering and Technology, Surat
  • Regional Engineering College, Trichurnapalli
  • L D College of Engineering, Ahmedabad, India


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