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Generating bioenergy from waste with solar reactor

This project is a collaboration between UK and India to develop a sustainable option for providing alternate fuel sources and reducing carbon emissions.

The amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated worldwide is estimated to be ~2 billion tonnes/year with an anticipated increase to 9.5 billion tonnes/year by 2050. Delhi dumps ~2 million tonnes of MSW annually in un-engineered landfill sites generating ~89×106 m3/y of methane that potentially could produce 2365 MJ/y of energy. This waste can be utilized to generate biogas and in Delhi alone, the gas to electricity conversions could generate 180 million kWh/y of electricity—enough to supply power to 150,000 homes consuming 100 kWh/household/month. This translates into a business opportunity of £66 million/y for gas to power plant, excluding the bio-fertilizer, MSW bioreactor, solar concentrator and heat storage business.

In this context, The Concentrating Solar-Thermophilic Anaerobic Reactor for Municipal Solid Waste (COSTARMSW) project will deliver a step change in how MSW waste is converted into useful bioenergy employing abundant solar resource. Compared to the current biomass conversion technologies, COSTARMSW technology aims to produce 30-40% more methane at 30% lower cost using an uninterrupted (24×7) heat supply from a fit for purpose solar thermal concentrator and thermal storage.

Novel features of the COSTARMSW system include:

  • The solar thermal concentrator coupled with the thermal storage will enable an 100% autonomous 24×7 operation of the biomass reactor; a unique and first ever system of its kind in India.
  • Solar thermal concentrator system will be designed to supply adequate quantity of heat at 70-120°C at a 40% lower footprint and cost compared to conventional solar collectors.
  • This is the first of its kind system anywhere in the world.

The key outputs of the project are

  • Creation of new collaborative knowledge leading to a computer-based design tool to design, specify and size components of COSTARMSW system for any location;
  • A scalable demonstration COSTARMSW system for validation of the hypotheses and computer models and to aid the final product development, rigorous testing, and better end-user interaction;
  • Experimentally measured performance data of the whole system and its components; and (iv) Joint research, two-way knowledge and technology transfer, manufacture in India, development of high-level skills, and contribution to energy security.
The research team in front of the biogas plant at IIT Delhi
The research team in front of the biogas plant at IIT Delhi

Dr. Ram Chandra, Assistant Professor from Center for Rural Development and Technology, IIT Delhi, gave a talk on 29th January 2020 at Brunel University London on the topic 'Conventional and Thermophilic Anaerobic Reaction Systems'. This talk was attended by more than 30 researchers and students and the talk was followed by a question and answer session. 

Research seminar

A UK-India online seminar on "Solar assisted biogas plants for higher gas output and sustainability in India" was held on 16th March 2021. The seminar was organised by UKIERI-DST funded COSTARMSW project and Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (India).


The project team comprises Brunel University London, two leading research institutes in India: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli, and 2 industries with substantial research and development track record in solar technologies, thermal storage, bioreactor designing, technology transfer and commercialisation.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Harjit Singh
Dr Harjit Singh - Dr Singh received his BEng, and MEng (IIT Roorkee, India) with specialisation in Mechanical and Thermal Engineering disciplines and PhD (University of Ulster, UK) in experimental evaluation of natural convective heat transfer in CPC solar collector cavities. He was a Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy at the Kingston University London (2009-2011) prior to accepting the current position. He has six years of research experience on various EU, EPSRC, the Carbon Trust and Defra funded projects. Dr Singh was previously a Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at National Institute of Technology Hamirpur, India. His research focuses on various aspects of solar energy systems, energy use in built environment. Topics currently being researched into include design and development of novel concentrating solar collectors, vacuum insulation panels and building retrofit for improved energy efficiency.

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Project last modified 13/10/2023