National Sugar Institute Produces Value Added Product From Bagasse

Every year, Indian sugar industry produces about 80-90 million metric tonnes of bagasse which is used mostly as fuel in boilers.The institue has achieved success in producing a value added product: a derivative of levulinic acid, methyl levulinate, directly from bagasse which has diverse application in transport sector, medical, agriculture and food industry.

Source: NSI | 02 Sept, 2020 | 11:11 AM

Kanpur: National Sugar Institute, Kanpur was successful in deriving a value-added product from bagasse which is a fibrous material obtained as a result of sugarcane crushing. Every year, Indian sugar industry produces about 80-90 million metric tonnes of bagasse which is used mostly as fuel in boilers.

For making sugar industry economically sustainable, there is greater need for reducing dependency on income from sugar and to increase income from other sources through innovations, said director of National Sugar Institute, professor Narendra Mohan.

“We were working on the project from the last two years and have finally achieved success in producing a value added product: a derivative of levulinic acid, methyl levulinate, directly from bagasse which has diverse application in transport sector, medical, agriculture and food industry,” said Prof Mohan.

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“Apart from having anti-freezing properties at high altitude or very cold climatic conditions, it is 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 localizing agent, as photodynamic therapy in cancer and as plasticizing agent in many other applications,” he added.

“At present, methyl levulinate is produced from levulinic acid. Since the market price of levulinic acid is Rs. 500-800 per kg, the cost of production of methyl levulinate is also quite high. We were trying to explore possibilities of developing a technoeconomic process using abundantly available cheap raw material. So, we explored the possibilities of using bagasse as raw material which is sold at Rs 2-3 per kg only,” said Dr Vishnu Prabhakar Srivastava, assistant professor of organic chemistry and project supervisor.

“Bagasse is composed of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. We have utilized 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,” said Tushar Mishra, research scholar, and Dr Chitra Yadav, research assistant of the project.

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Product characterization 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.

Considering the growing market, availability of cheap raw material and yield of methyl levulinate being about 5% of the raw material (bagasse), we expect that it would be possible to reduce the cost of production significantly. This way, the desired utilization may be made by different sectors,” said Prof Mohan.

“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,” he added