July 31: A team of professors and researchers of the Department of Biotechnology at Tribhuvan University (TU) have claimed to have made a breakthrough by converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into an energy source without using solar light.
The team of TU scientists also claimed that their preliminary finding has laid the ground for producing fuel without using crops such as sugarcane and cereals. The researchers involved in the finding claimed that avoiding the use of consumable products will help in saving arable areas.
The team said the Dark Reaction of CO2 Reduction Method can trap the carbon in a dark reaction to convert Co2 into energy, which they claimed as an important achievement in the field.
Krishna Manandhar, head of the department, announced in the presence of students, faculties, researchers and journalists that the preliminary research findings were first of its kind made by an academic institution in the country.
However, both the motive and the method of this finding were not disclosed. Pramod Aryal, a senior scientist and visiting professor at TU, said, “We have so far not published it even in any academic journal because we do not want to give away the specific details of the research which could be patented by other multinational companies.”
The research conducted by the Department of Biotechnology consisting eight members along with its students showed a new way of creating bio-fuel through dark reaction of CO2. Speaking at the press conference, senior scientist Aryal said, “While creating various forms of fuel, cultivable land goes to waste. So, this new way will save a large area of cultivable land.” Ethanol, a form of fuel, requires sugarcane or cereals in huge amounts. The land taken by these crops to produce fuel could be used to cultivate something else if bio fuel is created using CO2 reduction.
According to Aryal, using the Dark Reaction of CO2 reduction, they will be able to trap the carbon and in a dark reaction convert it into energy. “Normally, plants use photosynthesis where they use sunlight to trap CO2 but with this new method we have been able to trap carbon without sunlight,” said Aryal. The energy then created from that trapped carbon using the reaction can be used to potentially create fuel such as diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene.
The Department of Biotechnology started the research in 2011. “We have been involved in this from 2011 but around two years ago we started to get involved in creating energy from carbon,” said Manandhar.
Manandhar said that through the use of rice chaff after combustion could be used as a substitute for urea used in solid. New yeast strains have also been identified which could be used to create alcoholic beverages.
Manandhar also revealed that they had found the serotype 1 Dengue Virus common in 2016 using molecular and immunological tools. It was also revealed that a specific type of Dark Fever called cutaneous leishmaniasis, not common in Nepal, had been found in their research alongside its causative agent. The mutation process of Haemophilia, a bleeding disorder, was also researched in collaboration with the International Center for Genetic Engineering in New Delhi, said Manandhar.
Another finding was on the use of medicinal plants for actively battling diseases, mainly Dark Fever. Various bio-active compounds of these herbs were isolated to find out which part of the plant is effective in the remedies.
Antibiotic resistance was another issue raised at the press meet. Aryal said that antibiotics are getting less effective in the country owing to the drug-resistant bacteria. They have worked on Bacterio Phage, a virus which only infects bacteria but not humans nor animals, to work on improving sanitation at hospitals by spraying the disinfectant. Aryal said, “We have only discovered a lead molecule to work on the drug-resistant bacteria.”
Aryal revealed that they were in the process of discussing their research with various companies and the government to improve the quality of life in Nepal.
Source: Published initially in Republica National daily on 1st August, Authored by Bibek Raj Sharma.