The National Sugar Institute in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur has successfully derived a value-added product from bagasse, a fibrous material obtained as a result of sugarcane crushing.
The Indian sugar industry annually produces about 80 to 90 million metric tonnes of bagasse which is used mostly as fuel in boilers.
Prof. Narendra Mohan, Director of the National Sugar Institute, said, "We were working on the project from the last two years and have finally achieved success in producing a value-added product which is a derivative of levulinic acid, methyl levulinate, directly from bagasse. It has diverse application in transport sector, medical, agriculture and food industry,"
He said that for making the sugar industry economically sustainable, there is greater need for reducing dependency on income from sugar and to increase income from other sources through innovations.
Prof. Mohan explained, "Apart from having anti-freezing properties at high altitude or very cold climatic conditions, the derivative can be used as fuel additive in biodiesel and also as food flavouring agent in the food industry. It is also used as insecticide, herbicide, plant growth regulator in agriculture, as localising agent, as photodynamic therapy in cancer and as plasticising agent in many other applications."
At present, methyl levulinate is produced from levulinic acid. Since the market price of levulinic acid is Rs 500 to 800 per kg, the cost of production of methyl levulinate is also quite high.
Dr. Vishnu Prabhakar Srivastava, assistant professor of organic chemistry and project supervisor, said "We were trying to explore possibilities of developing a techno-economic process using abundantly available cheap raw material. So, we explored the possibilities of using bagasse as raw material which is sold at Rs 2 to 3 per kg only."
Tushar Mishra, research scholar, and Dr. Chitra Yadav, research assistant of the project, explained that "Bagasse is composed of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. We have utilised only the cellulosic part, and thus, remaining fractions may be used for other purposes. We adopted selective alcoholysis of bagasse-derived cellulose using acid catalyst under autoclave conditions."
Product characterisation has been carried out through mass spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy, gas chromatography, FT-IR spectroscopy and thin layer chromatography. The same has been found to be comparable with commercially available methyl levulinate produced from other raw materials.
Prof. Mohan said, "We will scale up the experiments to get a better idea about the yields and cost of production. A patent shall also be filed shortly by the institute."
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