Material Processing & Device Fabrication

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by nifs_admin

Material Processing & Device Fabrication project involves experimentation and basic studies in Material Processing and Device Fabrication with emphasis on graphite, graphite-based devices and carbon super capacitors. Also investigations related to solar cells and other electronic devices based on new materials, primarily generated from local minerals.

Work related to graphite will be the exfoliation of graphite and derivation into graphene plates, preparation of graphene thin films and their application in devices such as super capacitors and solar cells. Furthermore, the project plans to conduct research in the area of extremely thin absorber solar cells and developing hole conducting materials to be used in these solar cell devices.

The project ideas stand at the forefront of current research in the areas of Materials Processing and Device Physics, related to Energy Conversion & Storage and Other Electronic Devices. The theme is nationally relevant and highly important. It is geared towards utilization of locally available materials with the aim of adding enormous values to local minerals and plant dyes. The outcomes of the research will help and improve the national economy through developing cutting edge local industries capable of manufacturing solar cells and other electronic devices.

Bioenergy and Soil Ecosystems

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by nifs_admin

Currently research is being carried out in 2 main areas; Biofuel and soil C sequestration with sub projects in each category. A fair amount of studies have been reported and some data are available on the above ground C-sequestrations of the major vegetational types of Sri Lanka. However, very little or no information is available on the below ground or soil C sequestration. In consideration of the importance as well as the long term stability of soil stored C it is essential to fill this gap of knowledge on soil C-sequestration in Sri Lanka with respect to the country’s carbon budget. Therefore in this project soil C sequestration potential and its dynamics will be studied in the different major vegetation types of Sri Lanka. Major vegetations of Sri Lanka include natural and plantation forests, agricultural plantations, farm lands and small holder cultivations, wetland paddies, dry and wet grasslands or patanas, mangroves etc.
The biofuel project aims to explore the microbial flora of Sri Lanka to isolate efficient degraders of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, study the effect of biofilms and/or co-cultures on degradation of cellulosic biomass. Lignocellulosic materials from plants are a rich source of sugars. However,current production processes are economically unviable partly due to the costs of pre-treatment andhydrolytic ezymes. The present project aims to study possible enhancement of enzyme production by formation of co-cultures or biofilm formation. In addition, the possibilty of overcoming nitrogen limitation during enzyme production by co-culturing cellulolytic fungi with nitrogen fixing bacteria is being studied. For the purpose of biological pre-treatment, a number of basidiomycetes have been grown in vitro and screened for ligninolytic enzymes and their potential for degrading lignin is being explored. Organic component of algae could also be used as raw material for biofuel production. Algae are rich in poly unsaturated fatty acids hence; enhance the potential as a source for biofuel. This research will examine the possibilities of using cyanobacteria and algal species available in fresh water bodies of Sri Lanka for biofuel production.

CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS:

  1. Biofilm based biofuel production using cellulosic biomass
  2. Bio diesel production from fresh water cynobacteria
  3. Potential of soil carbon sequestration in home garden systems of Sri Lanka
  4. Assessment of soil C sequestration in forest and agricultural plantations of Sri Lanka.
  5. Land use and soil C sequestration in North Sri Lanka
  6. Assessment and mapping of soil C stocks and nutrient status of paddy soils of Sri Lanka
  7. Assessment and Mapping of Soil C Stocks in Knuckles Forest Region of Sri Lanka.

 

Assessment and Mapping of Soil C Stocks in Knuckles Forest Region of Sri Lanka

Forest soils play an important role as a carbon sink, which means that it can absorb and hold carbon for hundreds to thousands of years without releasing it as CO2 into the atmosphere. This study is based on soil C sequestration in different landuse types of Knuckles Forest Region; where a wide range of climatic conditions and vegetation types are available. Montane forests (MF), Sub Montane forests (SMF), Open and Sparse forests (OSF) and Grasslands (GL) were selected for the study.

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Fig. 1. Sampling in Sub Montane Forest

 

In addition to C sequestration, soil nutrient levels of these landuse types were also estimated. Results showed that TOC content was significantly highest in MF followed by SMF and lower in both OSF and GL. Montane forests also recorded higher MBC, LC and WSC contents (0.14 %, 715.2 mg/kg, 0.46 % respectively) compared to the other studied landuse types. Soil C stocks varied significantly (p<0.05) among these forest types, where MF recorded the highest soil C stock in top soil layer (0-15cm). The results show that MF and SM forests have a greater ability of sequestering C compared to other studied landuse types in the Knuckles forest region.

 

Carbon stocks and carbon fractions in paddy soils of northern Sri Lanka

Paddy represents a large portion of global agriculture and grown largely in South and East Asian countries. Soil organic carbon accumulation in paddy ecosystems was faster and more pronounced than the other arable ecosystems as organic matter decomposition is lessened in lowland rice fields, apparently due to excessively reduced conditions.However no research has been done in Sri Lanka to study soil C stocks in lowland paddy soils. The objective of this study was to assess the total organic carbon and its fractions and nitrogen availability in the paddy soils of Northern Province of Sri Lanka. This study was carried out in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitheevu districts of Northern Province of Sri Lanka. There were significant variations in total organic carbon and its fractions, nitrate and ammonium availability among soil great groups of paddy fields of Northern Province of Sri Lanka.TOC content of top soils in ton/ha was highest to the grumusols (54.83 tons/ha) and lowest to the regosols (10.55 tons/ha) in paddy fields of Northern Province.

 

Biodiesel production from freshwater cyanobacteria and micro algae of Sri Lanka and their morphological and molecular characterization.

Biofuels are considered as an important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security by providing a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Algae biomass is a potential source of 3rd generation biofuel that could surpass all the others due to its rapid growth and extremely high yield potential. Therefore, the aims and goals of the present study are: Morphological identification of cyanobacteria and other algae in fresh water bodies of Sri Lanka as a suitable feed stock for biodiesel production, Optimizing semi-mass culturing of selected cyanobacteria and other algal species, Isolating the other algal products and value added compounds of commercial interest from the residue of algal biomass, Extraction of fatty acids from selected cyanobacteria and other algal species, Molecular characterization of isolated cyanobacteria and other algae, Producing bio diesel from extracted lipids. For the last 12 months a total number of 52uni algal cultures were isolated from 25 fresh water bodies representing three climatic zones of Sri Lanka. The morphological identification of the isolates were also carried out. Isolates were tested for antioxidant, anti-pathogenic activities. The results indicated that cyanobacteria are rich in antioxidants with anti-pathogenic properties.

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Fig 2:Semi mass culturing of cayanobacteria

 

At the same time, different type of pigments such as phycoerytherin (PE), phycocyanin (PC) & allophycocyanin (APC), Chlorophyll-a (Ch-a), Chlorophyll-b (Ch-b) and Carotene (C x+c) were extracted from selected cyanobacteria which can be used in food and pharmaceutical industry. Also cyanobacteria species were tested for treating waste water and found that there is a potential to use in waste water treatment.

 

Isolation, identification and screening of microbial strains and development of biofilm/co-cultures for lignocellulose degradation

The enzymes involved in degradation of lignocelluloses include cellulases, hemicellulases and lignin degrading enzyme Cellulases can be further categorized as endoglucanases, exoglucanases and β glucosidases. Different microbes produce different proportions of these enzymes.  Therefore, co-culture of different microbes may result in a more efficient mixture of enzymes for degradation of enzymes. Also, biofilms of the enzyme producing may have enhanced expression of the enzymes. Among the fungal-fungal co-cultures tested so far, those betweenTrichoderma reesei  and Eupenicillium sp have been found to produce more efficient enzyme mixture than their monocultures. Fungal-bacterial co-cultures have been found to be less effective.

Nitrogen level in the medium is another factor that can limit enzyme production. Co-culture of enzyme producing fungi with nitrogen fixing bacteria is being studied to determine whether the bacteria can replenish nitrogen in the medium. Lignin degrading enzymes (laccases, Mn peroxidases, lignin peroxidases etc) are mostly produced by the basidiomycetes group of fungi. So far 42 different basidiomycetes have been isolated and screened for the lignin degrading enzymes. Isolates with high enzyme activities were tested for their ability to degrade lignin in culture medium. Pycnoporus sanguineus was found to degrade alkali lignin in monoculture, while isolate M14 was found to degrade akali lignin in mixed culture with Cellulomonas biazotea.

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Pycnoporus sanguineus: Capable of degrading lignin

web photo 2DSC02307web photo 3photo_Semimass culturing

Energy and Advanced Material Chemistry

Posted on: June 29th, 2015 by nifs_admin

The main objective of the Energy & Advanced Material Chemistry project is to carry out research on renewable energy. Research is mainly focused on chemistry and physics of new materials for the conversion of solar energy into chemical and electrical energies. Several research projects such as; Extending and adapting current photovoltaic technology mainly dye-sensitized, Q-dot and polymer solar cells to generate electricity directly from solar radiation; Constructing artificial chemical devices mimicking photosynthesis to collect, direct, and apply solar radiation, for example to split water, convert atmospheric carbon dioxide and thus produce various forms of environmentally clean fuels; Chemical, Electrochemical and Photochemical methods for the purification of air and water are the main research topics of the project. Additionally, the project also involves investigation of low cost water and air purification methods for abatement of industrial pollutants by using sunlight. In the research topics of conversion of solar energy into either electrical or chemical energy mentioned, the fundamental requirements are; sunlight must be absorbed efficiently by light harvesting materials; photoexcited electron and holes must be separated in space to prevent recombination; photoexcited charge must be energetically and kinetically able to perform a chemical transformation. Hence we investigate all these factors in our research.

Nanotechnology & Physics of Materials

Posted on: June 29th, 2015 by nifs_admin

 Nanotechnology and Physics of Materials are two of the most progressive branches in the Materials Science and Technology field. Among them, the nanotechnology is considered as a key technology for the future to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications.

Sri Lanka is well known for processing a variety of economically useful minerals, which are mainly being exported as cheap raw materials but playing a main role in global materials based industry. Proper value addition to our economically useful local materials has almost been lacking, due to dearth of advanced scientific research conducting in the country. However, the recently endorsed National Nanotechnology Initiative facilitates scientists to investigate into applications in nanotechnology with a view to add value in practically every aspects of our exports hence achieving technological progress and competitiveness.

The Nanotechnology and Physics of Materials Project of NIFS commenced its work in January 2013. At present, the following two sub projects, which emphasize on the basic and fundamental scientific aspects on advanced synthetic materials and advanced materials derived from Sri Lankan minerals, are carried out under this project.

Study of mechanism and effect of dopents in advanced transition metal semiconductors

Preliminarily, the effect of the precursor on crystal growth in nano particle formation is investigated in order to understand the mechanisms to control the size of the particles from sub micron to nano scales. The gain knowledge is extended to prepare advanced transition metal semiconducting materials with appropriate particle size. Further, fundamental scientific investigations are carried out to study the mechanism and the effect of dopents on electrical and electrochemical property enhancement of these advanced transition metal semiconducting materials. The long term objectives of this sub-project are twofold as follows. Development of efficient mechanisms and techniques for synthesizing nano particles. Introduction of performance enhanced advanced transition metal semiconducting materials for electrochemical energy conversion applications such as Li-ion, Na-ion and Mg-ion rechargeable batteries.

Investigation of ion intercalation in advanced materials derived from Sri Lankan minerals

Primarily, investigations on deriving advanced materials out of abundant Sri Lankan minerals are carried out under this sub project. These advanced materials derived from the local minerals will then be subjected to fundamental investigations on structural modification in atomic/nano scale. Furthermore, advanced scientific investigations on ion intercalation/de-intercalation mechanisms and electrochemical behaviour of these intercalated materials will be carried out.The long term objective of this sub-project is the conversion of Sri Lankan natural minerals in to highly upgraded advanced materials such as high purity graphite, surface modified graphite, extended graphite, graphene and nano-carbon composites…etc, which are pricey materials for a number of advanced nano technological and high-tech industrial applications. Moreover, application oriented performance enhancement of these developed materials are carried out specially aiming for energy conversion applications such as in rechargeable batteries.

Condensed Matter Physics and Solid State Chemistry

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by nifs_admin
he Condensed Matter Physics and Solid state Chemistry project of the NIFS focuses on research on synthesizing and characterizing technologically important novel materials for dye sensitized solar cells, rechargeable batteries, electrochromic display devices. Mixed cation effect in electrolytes for dye solar cells and tri-layer TiO2 photoanodes for efficiency enhancement are some of the recent original research findings of the group. A low cost, polymer nanofibre water filter is another important finding by this group. Developing nanofibres by electrospinning, synthesizing colloidal quantum dots as sensitizers for high efficiency solar cells and  application of silver nanofibres for efficiency enhancement are some of the ongoing projects.

 

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Bio Film Based Bio Fuel Production

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by nifs_admin

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