Lab Report

Sweeter than sugar

Researchers at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore have developed a new sugar-free sweetener from Stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to South and Central America. Nearly 200 times sweeter than table sugar, the compounds in Stevia — called steviosides — leave a lingering taste in the mouth but do not increase the calorie content of the food. The contribution of the steviosides to our energy is minuscule since it is not metabolised. In pure form, the steviosides are white crystalline powders that do not impart any colour. Unlike many artificial sweeteners, they are capable of withstanding high temperature and pH value, making them suitable for use in various food preparations. The Mysore researchers, who have developed a process for extracting steviosides from dry stevia leaves, say a manufacturing unit that can process 1,000 kg of dry leaves with a yield of nearly 2 per cent is economically viable.

Greener fuel

Researchers at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune have developed catalysts that can produce biodiesel in a cheap and efficient manner. Biodiesel is a biodegradable, cleaner-burning and renewable alternative to commercially used diesel. Its burning as fuel reduces emission of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and sulphur oxides by 25 per cent as compared to burning diesel derived from petroleum sources. More importantly, the new catalysts make it possible to use waste cooking oil and unrefined and non-edible oils for producing biodiesel as well lubricants. The NCL method makes manufacture of biodiesel economically and environmentally attractive, say the scientists. Moreover, it can be used to turn glycerol — a by-product of biodiesel — into a high-value diesel additive and thereby increase the yield and fuel burning efficiency of biodiesel.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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