SR article


Since our time in India has come to an end we can make some recommendations for as well future student groups working on this project as for Amrita. Hopefully these can help to proceed with the project successfully and similar projects in the future

For future student groups:


  • The next step that needs to be done is to do the experiments that we planned in order to optimize the process and find the right values for all parameters. The experiments that we had planned can be found in 'Experimentation Plan'.
  • Work out a more detailed business plan and revenue model. The business plan we have made is purely based on estimations, since the production of oil has not started yet. When all the variables, like the amount of batches per day and average oil yield are known, the business plan and revenue model can give a much better overview.
  • Training of the villagers. The step-by-step operational guide is a step in the good direction, but the villagers will need guidance for working with the distillation unit. To be entirely familiar with the distillation unit and comfortable operating it requires time. Hence someone needs to show the villagers the process, let them read the guide and give them guidance the first few times they operate the distillation unit. It is of utmost importance that they only operate the unit by themselves once they feel fully comfortable and understand all the safety measures.
  • Strictly introduce the safety measures we listed. Most importantly the cover for the mirror and the fence around the mirror and the steam generation tank. These two measures would already significantly reduce the dangers to which the villagers are exposed. It would be even better to conduct a full HAZOP analysis to identify and exclude any additional hazards.
  • Translate the step-by-step guide. We have written it in English, however nobody in the village understands English. So this guide is only useful for future student groups or people from Amrita at the moment. To be useful for the villagers it has to be translated into Malayalam.
  • Look at new possible products. The next group should make and test derived products such as soaps and mosquito repellents. Testing the derived products can be done in the lab. For example: When testing the quality of a lemongrass oil-based mosquito repellent, you can do experiments involving real-life mosquitos and compare it with different kinds of repellents.
  • Find a company for all the packaging. Until now the small glass bottles have been purchased from a shop, which are relatively expensive and only obtainable in small quantities. Find a business that is able to produce the desired bottles in larger quantities and for a good price.
  • Establish contact with new customers. As we already discussed, Parisons will be the first customer as soon as the production is running. When the production exceeds the demand of Parisons, the other businesses that we encountered during the WTO meeting can be contacted. These businesses and their contact details can be found in 'Possible Clients'. When the production is greater than the demand of the tourism industry, contact the cosmetics and health businesses listed on the same page.
  • Guide the villagers with setting up the business (hiring employees, financial guidance, contact with customers etc.).




For Amrita University:


  • The next time that students come to work with the distillation unit, the grass should be cut before their arrival. For the experiments, lemongrass of about 2-3 months is needed. However the lemongrass fields are currently not being used, so all the lemongrass is much older. This can cause unnecessary delays in their work.
  • The next time that international students come to Valaramkunnu, it would be useful to make sure there is an Indian student/supervisor there to guide them at all times. For us, communication was a large obstacle that caused a lot of delay. We were told that Mr. Hari could help us and that he could speak English, but in practice, his level of English was insufficient to discuss technical things involved in the project. The fact that we were alone in the village for such a large amount of time was disadvantageous for the progression of the project.
  • The distillation unit needs to get certified. The current prototype hasn’t been certified, which can be extremely dangerous since it is still unclear how much the prototype can actually handle in terms of pressures and temperatures.
  • The next distillation unit should be installed in an area with more sun. In Valaramkunnu, there are a few months during monsoon season in which distillation is not possible. You could make more money off a distillation unit that can be run the whole year through.
  • The steam generation tank of the next distillation unit should have some sort of easy release mechanism to lower the pressure when needed. Preferably one at the top of the steam generation tank so that only steam will escape. The current prototype has a tap at the bottom of the steam generation tank. When this tap is opened, not only steam comes out but there is also a big loss of water, which is unfavourable.
  • When the current prototype proves to be profitable and it is decided to scale up to a larger unit, it would be a good idea to start off in another village. The installation of a larger distillation unit will take a lot of time (since it also needs to be tested). If the first new unit were to be placed in Valaramkunnu, this would mean that the old prototype would be inactive and that, until the new unit is working properly, there is no income for the villagers. To avoid this, we suggest first installing and testing the larger unit in a different village and, if proven successful, implement it in Valaramkunnu, replacing the smaller prototype.
  • Once the business has earned some money and proves to be profitable, Amrita should request to cut down the tree that the sun is hidden behind after 3PM. This can extend the operating time per day by more than an hour. Until then, just keep the branches cut.
  • When designing a new, larger unit: check that all materials are compatible for the required conditions (where possible, refer to some sort of database) in order to avoid a situation like we had with the C-clamps.