Biofuel-powered mobiles

Biofuel-powered mobiles

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According to an article published on February 8, 2007 by the BBC, a fuel derived from cotton and a bush used to heal constipation could very soon power mobile networks in India.

The crops will be used to generate biodiesel that will power mobile phone base stations in isolated rural areas, without access to electricity. One third of homes in India are not connected to the electricity grid and the demand for mobile phones is growing rapidly.

Most of this increase has occurred in urban areas, where there is an extensive mobile phone network. But outside of the big cities, where about three-quarters of the population live, coverage is fragmented. This, in part, is because the electricity grid used to power the mobile phone network infrastructure is often unreliable and does not cover the entire country.

"As GSM carriers expand their network coverage to new areas, one of the biggest challenges is overcoming operational difficulties related to the lack of basic infrastructure," says Mats Granryd, CEO of Ericsson India.

Remote base stations already work with conventional fuel generators, but it is not a very clean system and requires a lot of maintenance. It can also be very expensive. According to Ericsson, half the cost of a remote base station is fuel.

For this reason, the mobile phone companies Idea Cellular and Ericsson, together with the GSMA development fund, have proposed a pilot plan in which the remote base station generators run on a biodiesel fuel made by combining plant oils with alcohol, in the presence of a catalyst that accelerates the process.

The environmental impact of biodiesel is lower than that of conventional fuels and, in addition, it can be grown and processed in the country. Although the plan is still in the pilot phase, up to 10 base stations are expected to be operational in Pune (in the Maharashtra region) by mid-2007. There is another similar project in Lagos, Nigeria, where biofuel is sourced from peanuts

Source: BBC News

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