India’s first Dimethyl Ether fuelled tractor ushers a new era

Dimethyl Ether (DME) offers a renewable and indigenous alternative.

A significant milestone has been achieved in India’s pursuit of a sustainable alternative fuel-based transport system with the development of the country’s first 100% Dimethyl Ether (DME)-fuelled tractor/vehicle for both on- and off-road applications.

India heavily relies on imported crude oil to meet its energy demands across various sectors of the economy. However, Dimethyl Ether (DME) offers a renewable and indigenous alternative. Several countries, including Japan, USA, China, Sweden, Denmark, and Korea, have already embraced DME as a vehicle fuel. Yet, its use in internal combustion (IC) engines remains unexplored in the Indian subcontinent.

To address this gap and drive renewable energy adoption, researchers at IIT Kanpur have developed a 100% DME-fuelled engine equipped with a mechanical fuel injection system. This engine demonstrated higher thermal efficiency and lower emissions compared to conventional diesel engines.

The DME-fuelled engine exhibited extremely low levels of particulate matter, soot emissions, and nearly zero smoke, eliminating the need for costly exhaust gas after-treatment devices and advanced engine technologies. This makes it a promising alternative fuel and engine technology for the agricultural and transport sectors, which heavily rely on conventional diesel engines.

Supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a department of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), this research aligns with the ‘Methanol Economy’ program initiated by NITI Ayog. By converting abundant domestic coal reserves, low-value agricultural biomass waste, and municipal solid waste into methanol and DME, this innovation has the potential to reduce India’s oil import bill and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Overcoming the challenges associated with DME, such as its lower calorific value and higher compressibility compared to diesel, the researchers developed a customized high-pressure mechanical fuel pump with increased pressurization capacity.

Additionally, they utilized custom mechanical injectors with larger nozzle hole diameters, ensuring DME adaptation and equivalent power generation to diesel. Lubricity additives were employed to enhance DME’s lubrication properties, and DME-compatible materials were used in the fuel injection equipment (FIE) and fuel supply and return lines. Moreover, custom DME tanks were developed to facilitate safe storage and usage.

  • press release