Lipid Science & Technology
The R&D activities in Oils and Fats were formally launched in the institute in 1945 and this division was one of the oldest divisions of CSIR-IICT and Dr KT Achaya provided an outstanding leadership to this group till 1972 and latter the group was headed by Dr G Lakshminarayana, Dr R Subba Rao, Dr TNB Kaimal, Dr Vijay Kale and Dr RBN Prasad. Initially the division was named as "Oils and Fats" Division and in 1995 this was renamed as Lipid Science and Technology Division. During early fifties the main focus of research of this Division was on development of technologies for processing of non-traditional vegetable oils like cotton seed oil to augment the shortage of edible vegetable oils in India. This was followed by pioneering research in the area of fatty acids, fatty alcohols and their derivatives. Due to the changing scenario in the area of oils and fats, interaction between industry and Lipid Science and Technology Division had grown stronger over the last few years. Castor oil is an indigenous unique raw material and a valuable commodity for export and mostly value addition was done in other countries and Lipids Group developed technologies for several value added products from castor oil like undecenoic acid, hydrogenated castor oil, dehydrated castor oil etc. and transferred to industry on commercial scale.
In later part of eighties, due to acute shortage, focus shifted on development of processes for non-conventional oils like rice bran oil. India being a major producer of rice, research activities were directed towards development of edible grade oil from rice bran. The processing of rice bran oil is associated with many technological challenges. Lipids group actively pursued R & D on this unique nutritious oil and made remarkable achievement by developing technology for enzymatic degumming of rice bran oil with the funding of Technology Mission on Oilseeds, Pulses and Maize (Ministry of Agriculture, Govt, of India) and the technology was transferred to 19 industries and 8 Project Engineering Companies which made a deep impact on the vegetable oil industry in the entire country. CSIR in recognition has honored the efforts of the group by awarding with CSIR TECHNOLOGY AWARD for 2005. In addition the enzymatic degumming team bagged first Industrial Green Chemistry Award (2009) and Technology Development Board Award (2010) for commercialization of this technology.
Increasing price of fossil fuels and growing demands in energy requirement due to rapid industrialization is compelling the attention on alternate fuels from renewable sources. Lipids group actively pursued the development of more efficient and greener technologies for the preparation of biodiesel from non-edible oils like jatropha and karanja. In addition, work was also carried out for the preparation of value added products from the by-products of biodiesel like oilseed cakes and glycerol. Significant R&D work was carried out on the development of value added products (like biofertilizer, biopesticides, biolubricants, additives, surfactants etc.) from karanja oil, cake and glycerol with the funding of Department of Science & Technology, Govt, of India and several projects are being executed in this direction for commercial exploitation of these products.
India is dependent on advanced countries for its aviation lubricant requirement. Hence IICT has launched a project in a major way for development of technologies for synthetic aviation lubricants from indigenous resources. Analytical facility comprising of highly sophisticated equipments has been created for lubricant testing and a pilot plant for the preparation of biolubricants has been established. Development of lubricants based on several non edible oils like jatropha, karanja, castor, sal etc. for different applications is also being actively pursued and several patents have been filed in these areas.
Lipids group has also developed a number of processes for utilization of by-products of vegetable oil processing industry. Processes for up-gradation of rice bran wax, hydrogenated wax, triacontanol, policosanol, oryzanol, lecithin and modified lecithins, tocopherols, phytosterols etc., were developed and transferred to industry. The Division is actively working in the area of enzymatic modifications of lipids for the development of structured lipids like reduced calorie fats, trans-free vanaspati, diacylglycerol etc. Major thrust has also been given for the isolation or preparation of nutraceuticals like GLA, ALA, CLA etc. The Division has initiated many collaborative projects with both industries and other R&D laboratories in the areas like isolation and characterization of PUFA from algal and microbial sources for biodiesel and nutraceutical applications; ALA- rich oils from silk worm pupae; development of specialty fat liquors for the leather industry; enzymatic extraction of vegetable oils etc. Lipids group is also pursuing the processes for the development of high-value specialty oleochemicals based on castor and other non-edible oils using modern approaches like metathesis, enzymatic and microwave-irradiated reactions. Futuristic technologies like membrane separation are being investigated for processing of vegetable oils and for waste water treatment. A 12 lit capacity supercritical carbon dioxide extraction pilot plant has also been established for the development of green extraction processes.
The Division has established a good rapport with the Indian Industries and CSIR has taken a decision to strengthen this group by recognizing it as "Centre of Excellence for Lipid Research". Accordingly, facilities in three specialized areas (vegetable oils, biodiesel and lubricants) and one Process Equipment Pilot Plant were established. This state of the art facility caters the needs of the vegetable oil and allied product industry, R&D and academic institutes on par with the International Standards. A dedicated new building was constructed for Lipids Group and the group is presently carrying out its activities from this new building. During last ten years the group has executed more than 100 Grant-in-aid and industry sponsored programmes worth about Rs 50 crores. The Centre has demonstrated 18 technologies to about 50 clients, extended analytical support to more than 250 industries and academic institutions, collaborated with more than 50 organizations, published about 300 research papers in reputed scientific journals and filed 75 patents during last ten years. Recently Lipids group has initiated a major collaborative project entitled "Development of Sustainable Processes for Edible Oils with Health Benefits from Traditional and New Resources (PEOPLE HOPE)" in collaboration with CSIR-NIIST, CSIR-NEIST, CSIR-IIP, CSIR-CFTRI and CSIR-NCL. CSIR-IICT is the nodal laboratory for this project.