13-year-old Muslim girl’s bio-diesel project wins first position An eighth standard student, who created a project on bio-diesel as a viable alternative to fossil fuel, came up winner at the recently concluded State-level students’ meet at Madurai.
Shameena Banu’s project on bio-diesel secured the first place in the Industry and Environment category for students in the sixth-eighth standard category at the 33rd Annual Jawaharlal Nehru Science and Maths competition held at Madurai.
The 13-year-old student of Zion Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Selaiyur, near Tambaram, secured the first place when her school hosted the Chengalpattu Education District-level competition last month and was selected for the State-level meet. She would soon be visiting Bangalore to compete in the South Zone meet.
Daughter of Jawahar Sulaiman, working in the Southern Railway in Tambaram and Seema Banu, a housewife, Shameena said she has been interested in working on deriving a fuel from Jatropha for about one year now. It was with the support and encouragement from her parents, teachers and school authorities that she was able to put in place what she had dreamt of.
Briefing media persons on her project, she said bio-diesel was extracted from the seeds of Jatropha, commonly known as ‘kattamannaku.’ As it adapted to all climatic conditions, the tropics being the most suitable, it could be cultivated on arid land that was unfit for cultivation.
Jatropha seeds were first cooked in the presence of steam, crushed to get vegetable oil and filtered through industrial cotton, she explained. Then, methanol and a catalyst were added to produce methyl ester with glycerine as derivative. After a few other processes, such as recovery of methanol, washing and removal of moisture, the refined methyl ester — the bio-diesel — was obtained.
A basic unit for production would cost around Rs. 20,000 and it could make 1,500 litres of bio-diesel. Shameena said a litre of this alternative fuel would cost about Rs. 20. Its advantages were almost nil presence of sulphur, reduction of soot emissions and ability to decompost easily, among others.
Another student from Tambaram area who would be joining Shameena at the Bangalore meet is V.Nandakumar, a ninth standard student of Government Higher Secondary School in Peerkankaranai. His project ‘Single Cell Protein: Algae as alternate food’ won the first prize in the environment category for ninth-tenth standard students at the Madurai meet.
According to his school teachers, Spirolina was the selected single cell algae and Nandakumar demonstrated how protein could be derived from it to prepare healthy food.
At the district-level and State-level events, Nandakumar had prepared some dishes made from Spirolina, teachers said.
K.Ramanujam, chief educational officer of Kancheepuram District, said it was a rich haul from schools coming under the jurisdiction of the Chengalpattu Education District. ¨