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International research project to transform life in rural India

Energy Harvest
02 July 2013

A new renewable energy technology that has the potential to eradicate the problem of open field burning in India has been unveiled this week at two events held at the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar and the British Council in New Delhi respectively.

The technology – a Pyroformer™ container - developed by scientists at the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University in the UK is the result of a prestigious international research collaboration between Aston University and IIT Ropar.

Every year farmers throughout India burn millions of tonnes of crop residue. This burning process has a negative impact on the environment and economy as this straw is wasted and has serious implications on health and society due to the smoke and fumes produced.

Working in the Punjab region of India, this project titled EnergyHarvest, takes agricultural waste left over from the harvests such as rice and wheat straw and EBRI’s Pyroformer™ technology heats them in controlled conditions. The process generates oil, gas and biochar. Each one of these products is useful and means that harvest waste now has a value as it is put to use rather than simply being burnt. The oil produced can be mixed with diesel and used in engines to drive water pumps found on all agricultural land in the region; the gas can be used for power generation whilst the biochar can be used as a fertilizer to increase crop growth.

Funding from the Oglesby Charitable Trust has enabled Aston University to work closely with IIT Ropar to make this innovative technology available as a pilot phase in three villages of the Ropar District: Khuaspura, Hussainpur, Ladal. The Pyroformer™ is housed in a container unit that can be transported between rural locations by tractor and is operated by the villagers themselves.

Professor M K Surappa, Director of IIT Ropar, said: “I am delighted that IIT Ropar is collaborating with the European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston University on this prestigious research project. IIT Ropar has provided laboratory facilities to enable essential testing and research to be conducted.  Technical support throughout the trials that have taken place has also been given and IIT Ropar has built strong relationships with the villages participating in these trials. Open field burning is an enormous problem for India and I hope this project will provide a socially and economically viable solution for farming communities, not only in the Punjab but for the rest of the country.”

Professor Dame Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, said: “Aston University has been collaborating with universities in India for many years and EnergyHarvest is an excellent example of the importance of UK and Indian universities working together to solve real life problems. By sharing ideas, research and best practice, universities throughout the world are able to make a significant contribution to tackling global issues; in this case, the problem of open field burning and its contribution to Climate Change. The work being undertaken through EnergyHarvest could help to eradicate open field burning and transform life in rural India forever.”

Professor Robert Berry, Executive Dean, School of Engineering & Applied Science at Aston University said; “I am very happy to see this partnership between Aston University and IIT Ropar delivering research outcomes with significant, positive impact for the environment and for the rural community, particularly in the Punjab. Building on technology and findings from an earlier Aston University/IIT Delhi Science Bridge Project, we have been able to accelerate the field deployment and testing of a new and effective way to turn harvest waste into useful products.”

This technology has the potential to stimulate growth and provide a cost-effective, reliable and sustainable form of decentralised power generation to address the local needs of heat and energy.

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For further information, please contact Louise Russell, Marketing & Communications Officer at Aston University,  l.a.russell1@aston.ac.uk  or +44 (0)121 204 4637 or

Alternatively Prabh Sharan Singh, Training and Placement Officer at IIT Ropar on +91-98555-22295 or at prabh@iitrpr.ac.in.