KOLKATA, Jan. 11 -- The world's second largest army is going green and trying to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel. In what is seen as a major eco-friendly step towards renewable energy generation in the country, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) - the research wing of the Indian armed forces, is experimenting with bio-fuel for its military vehicles.

"From our existing literature we have identified at least 40 species of algae from which bio-fuel could be extracted. Experiments are going on and we hope to come with some interesting finds very soon," said Sashi Bala Singh, director of the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS).

Algae are photosynthetic organisms that occur in most habitats. They vary from small, single-celled forms to complex multi-cellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length.

Singh said that the scientists are aiming to zero in one or two species out the 40 which would produce the maximum yield and grows very fast.

"We need to extract more than 40% fuel from the species. Only then the project would become viable. Also we have to identify that species which grows the fastest. Usually algae community grows very slowly," she said.

She said that even though all the algae have been collected from the areas in around Tezpur in Assam where the laboratory of the DIPAS is located in the future they intend to collect other species of algae from other states too.

"We are also interacting with some senior scientists of the Guwahati University in Assam in this regard," she told Hindustan Times.

A senior scientist of the DRDO said that half of algae's composition, by weight, is lipid oil. Scientists have been studying this oil for decades to convert it into algae biodiesel - a fuel that burns cleaner and more efficiently than petroleum.

This is however not for the first time that any armed forces is experimenting on extracting biofuel from algae. The US Navy had used bio-fuel along with fuel made from cooking oil waste as a part of its 'Green Fleet' military exercises in 2012. Published by HT Syndication with permission from HT Kolkata. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com



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(Originally published Jan. 11, 2013, in Hindustan Times.)