New Delhi: To create more fuel efficient engines, the Indian government is setting up a Combustion Research Institute with a start-up capital investment of Rs200 crore.
Confirming the development, R. Chidambaram, principal scientific adviser, government of India, said, “We are certainly discussing such a programme, but it will take two months before something concrete can be announcedon it.”
Concerned at the threat of global warming and constantly improving international fuel efficiency norms, the Indian government is hoping to attract top physicists from abroad, especially those of Indian origin, as well as from institutes such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, said a ministry of science and technology official who didn’t want to be named.
The research would concentrate on understanding the combustion process using detailed modelling methods of fossil fuels, and biofuels, at a molecular level. Though institutes, such as the Indian Instiutes of Technology in Kanpur and Chennai, and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, are engaged in fuel research, their modelling studies are mostly conducted at foreign laboratories, which experts say work out quite expensive.
Knowledge emerging out of this research would be used to develop engines that would be smaller, fuel efficient and most importantly, “indigenous,” the official said and added that the effort was “being personally pushed” by Chidambaram.
The basic idea for such an institute is mentioned in the report of the Steering Committee on Science and Technology for the 11th Five Year Plan.
“Setting up a building and allotting money for such a project is easy,” said the same ministry official, “but getting appropriate scientists and retaining them is the hard part.”
With global crude prices rising sharply and hovering around $100 (Rs3,957) per barrel of crude in recent days, combustion research is being increasingly seen as vital to harnessing fuels such as hydrogen to power engines, with even the ministry of new and renewable energy recently announcing an ambitious plan to have more than a million vehicles run on hydrogen by 2020.
Some technologies that exist for combustion research include specialized cameras that show how fuel bounces off walls within engines and map the trajectories of fuel particles during the ignition process, and extremely sensitive sensors that measure minute changes in temperature in the engine, during combustion.
“Few of which (the technologies) exist within both private and government research labs in the country,” said Amitava Sen, an automotive expert based out of the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.
Leading combustion research institutes in the world are at the Sandia Labs, in the US and University of Aachen, Germany. Industry experts say that while the benefits of having such an institute might not yield immediate benefits, even 10 years from now, it will accelerate the almost-insignificant amount of automotive research and development.
“In terms of automotive technology, we lag the Japanese and European auto market by a huge margin, both in numbers and no of vehicles,” noted I.V. Rao, chief general manager, engineering research design, at auto giant Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. “Investing in automotive research is extremely expensive and we don’t make that many cars in India to make research budgets feasible. But few decades down, yes, we’ll certainly have to evolve our own engines and fuels. We can’t keep following Europe forever.”