Generating fuel for life – Loughborough shares renewable energy expertise with India

Loughborough University engineering experts are helping to improve lives in India by sharing essential knowledge of how to turn waste into clean energy.

Dr Richard Blanchard, Lecturer in Renewable Energy at the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) at Loughborough University, has been joined by Chemical Engineering student Matthew Palmer in creating a cost-effective, alternative fuel source to firewood and charcoal.

In India, about 1 million people die annually from respiratory diseases due to household air pollution caused by smoke and fumes from burning firewood and charcoal. These fuels are often used in an open fire or simple stove with incomplete combustion, and result in a large amount of smoke.

To help empower disadvantaged women connected with the Russ Foundation in South India, Dr Blanchard built a simple prototype wooden press in order to make biomass briquettes. Matthew then enlisted the help of students Sahil Jhamb and Dominic Cowell, from the School of Business and Economics, to devise a briquette formula made from paper, sawdust and ash - materials which are easily accessible in India and often go to waste.

A metal version of the prototype press has since been made and installed at the charity to allow the women to create low-cost biomass briquettes, earn a wage and gain vocational skills as a result.

This has all been made possible thanks to MyIndia - a social enterprise project which aims to tackle fuel poverty in the country. It is led by students who make up Enactus Loughborough – an entrepreneurial action group established to make a positive change in the world.

And last year, the MyIndia team won the Santander 60 Second Pitch competition and were awarded £1,500 towards the project. Sahil was chosen as one of 10 finalists from universities across Great Britain after he posted a 60 second video about the positive impact biomass briquettes can have on people’s lives.  

Dr Blanchard said: “MyIndia is an excellent example of a project which is making a real difference to people’s lives. Matthew initially asked me to help out and make a wooden prototype briquette press which could be easily replicated by the Russ Foundation. On my part I’m sharing knowledge and expertise to help people in poverty make a better life for themselves and their families; and ultimately be a part of a project that they can take ownership of – this is what it’s all about.”

Matthew added: “This project demonstrates the power of collaboration and I hope it inspires other student engineers to take up opportunities outside their degree and get involved with projects such as MyIndia. This is also a great example of students and lecturers working together to share simple engineering knowledge overseas. Without Dr Blanchard’s expertise, we wouldn’t have been able to help the Russ Foundation in the way that we did.” 

To find out more about Enactus Loughborough, visit

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 16/20

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. It was 2nd in the 2015 THE Student Experience Survey and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

CREST is the largest and leading UK sustainable energy research centre, and its research influences industry, policy makers, researchers and educators from across the world.

Enactus Loughborough is an entrepreneurial action group led by Loughborough University students which has been set up to make a positive change in the world. Its mission is to create impactful projects to bring about sustainable social change in both local and global communities.

Russ Foundation is a charity located in South India. Since its inception in 1992, it has developed into a dynamic organisation with a history of bringing about vital changes in the community it serves. The charity concentrates its developmental efforts at grassroots level in health, HIV/AIDS, education, socio-economic development, life-skill vocational training and ecology.



Charlotte Hester

PR Officer

Telephone: 01509 223491

PR team

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