Three graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, Ankur Kumar, Kanika Prajatat and Pracheer Dutta have developed a machine that can convert the hardy straw of paddy into a fibrous raw material that can be used by the pulp molding factories to prepare disposable cutlery.
In India despite a Supreme Court order, and a government scheme that offers stubble management machines at subsidized rates, farmers continue to burn crop residue after harvest, as they find it cheaper than clearing the crop residue manually or by using machines. The practice is rampant across rice-growing belts as paddy straw is neither a suitable fuel nor can be used as cattle feed. The situation is worse in Punjab and Haryana as the smoke resulting from burning the residue chokes Delhi and envelops the entire northern India with dense toxic smog for weeks.
Paddy straw is rich in silica, which slows down its rate of degradation and hence farmers choose to burn it post harvest to make the land reusable faster. The new machine, created by the trio as the first product of their startup Kriya Lab, uses an environment-friendly chemical that can strip the straw of silica, making it supple and usable. The pulp can be used as raw material for the pulp and paper industry.
For now the machine can convert one ton of paddy straw into 500 kilograms of pulp, which can then be sold at Rs. 45 per kilogram. It holds promise for those who want to start commercially viable ventures as there is a growing demand for ecofriendly cutlery and packaging materials, particularly the ones made from biomass waste. Read more
A team of scientists at the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, and the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, has developed a non-toxic technique to recycle plaster of Paris (PoP) waste from hospitals and convert it into useful materials such as ammonium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate.
In hospitals and other medical centers PoP is mainly used for setting broken or fractured bones or for making casts in dentistry. It is a hazardous waste, loaded with bacteria, and affects not only the environment, but also people who collect, segregate, and dispose it.
The new technique treats PoP waste with ammonium bicarbonate solution with a concentration of 20 percent. The solution disintegrates the waste into high value and non-toxic chemicals, ammonium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate in the form of sludge in 24-36 hours at room temperature.
The resultant material ammonium sulphate can be utilized as nitrogen fertilizer, fire-extinguishing powder, and in pharmaceutical, textile, and wood pulp industries, while calcium carbonate can be easily used in steel manufacturing.
The new technique can also be used to disintegrate PoP waste from idols immersed in water bodies.
The study results have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Read the full report by Vaishali Lavekar.
Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Roorkee have fabricated low-cost thin film solar cells by extracting the plant pigments from plums, black currants, and berries.
The team found that the plant pigments are good at absorbing sunlight. According to a study, published in the Journal of Photovoltaics, plant pigments are naturally occurring biodegradable and nontoxic molecules that are extracted using techniques that involve negligible cost to the environment and therefore can provide eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic dyes that are used for thin film solar cells production.
The researchers at IIT-Roorkee extracted the plant pigments using ethanol to create the thin film solar cells. And while the organic thin film solar cells are not yet as efficient as conventional silicon-based solar cells, the team is investigating ways to make them more efficient and cost-effective. Read the full report by Lorraine Chow.
Bangalore-based Aditya Agarwal (23) has created a coin-sized micro-USB powered 1.2 watt white LED bulb, called Bulbh, that emits twice the light than a one watt compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.
Created and designed at Aditya’s startup My Dream Bird, the Bulbh is a small, slim, micro-USB powered light that has a light emitting capacity of 120-130 lumens as compared to 60 lumens per watt of a CFL and 12-17 lumens per watt of an incandescent lamp. It can be used as an emergency light, a cycle light, night light, in wardrobes, for photography, or as a helmet light.
This September Aditya plans to launch Bulbh in a ‘buy one, donate one’ model where every Bulbh that is sold online, one unit will get donated in India to the communities that are still using incandescent bulbs to reduce their cost of living.
Why it matters
The traditional incandescent yellow light bulbs are much less efficient than other types of electric lighting; they use less than five percent of energy into visible light, converting the rest into heat. Though the manufacturing cost of incandescent bulbs is less, its low light emitting capacity and high power consumption factors have led the European Union, China, Canada and United States to consider phasing it out. India too is slowly moving towards banishing the incandescent bulbs.
As incandescent lamps phase out, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are being assembled into a light bulb. Like incandescent lamps, and unlike CFL lamps, LEDs come to full brightness without the need for a warm-up time. They have a lifespan and electrical efficiency that is significantly better than the rest.
The LED lamp market is projected to grow multi-fold over the next decade, to $25 billion by 2023 (see source). Aditya’s Bulbh taps into this emerging market.
Speaking of the micro-USB powered light, he says, “The Bulbh can be powered by any micro-USB chord that can be connected to a power source such as a mobile device adapter, a power bank, a personal computer or a laptop. It has been ergonomically designed for use in various conditions and emits bright light. It is specifically targeted for mobile phone users of the world who already have micro-USB adapters.” This is a large user base. According to a report, the number of mobile phone users in the world is likely to reach almost 5.3 billion by 2017.
To make Bulbh emit light uniformly in all directions, the product has been given a custom casing of silicon and thermoplastic alloy. The casing also prevents Bulbh from heating up, even after 24 hours of continuous use. A tiny circuit of LEDs lies inside the enclosure.
To achieve the color rendering index (CRI) of 80, which is equivalent to any CFL, and twice the lumens per watt than a CFL, Aditya has created Bulbh by using six 0.2 watt Everlight LEDs, each with a capacity of emitting 24 lumens of light. All LEDs have been placed in a series on an aluminum-core printed circuit board that maintains the circuit temperature uniformly.
The circuit comprises a dedicated high-frequency DC-DC converter that operates as a constant-current source. There is provision for high switching frequency that regulates the amount of inrush current and prepares the circuit for a soft start. This also prevents the circuit from over-voltage, short-circuit and over-temperature incidents.
On the outside, each Bulbh is fitted with a neodymium magnetic base so that the users can stick it on any metal surface. Initially, My Dream Bird plans to provide two extra magnetic stickers with the product so users can stick it to metal, stone wall, wood, ceramic or glass.
With its coin-sized smooth form factor, Bulbh looks sleek. The tiny lamp, with a rounded shape similar to that of an Indian sweet called ‘batasha’, is just 0.6 inches in height and 1.3 inches in width, and weighs between 30-35 grams.
Buy One, Donate One
As Bulbh finds its users in the market, Aditya plans to execute his ‘buy one, donate one’ campaign simultaneously. “The idea of donating Bulbh occurred to me when I saw hawkers in Kolkata selling their goods under candle light. I found out that they do not buy incandescent bulbs or CFLs as they get heated up and they cannot afford LED lights. Hence, for each Bulbh that is sold online, I plan to donate one to such communities and users in India,” explains Aditya. Initially, he plans to sell Bulbh through popular e-commerce channels in the U.S. and the European Union countries.
My Dream Bird has collaborated with non-governmental organizations such as Goonj, Smile Foundation, Round Table India, and HelpAge India to ensure donated Bulbh lamps reach hawkers, students, underprivileged children and the elderly communities in India.
Bulbh will be launched in the U.S. and European markets by September 2015. Once he is able to raise $400,000 funding, Aditya plans to open-source the project.
For more details, contact Aditya at email@example.com or visit the Bulbhwebsite.
A team of three students, Bisman Deu, Rayvin Thingnam, and Ekambir Singh, has invented “Green Wood” made out of recycled rice husks and straw that could be used an as alternative building material.
Majority of the world’s population eat rice as a staple food, and the crop dominates cereal production in many developing countries. The threshing of rice produces unwanted husks and straw, and the options for disposal are limited: burning, composting or feeding to animals on the farm. The residues have no commercial value and therefore the farmers end up burning the rice waste – causing air pollution, killing crop-friendly insects and making the topmost layer of soil partially infertile due to loss of nutrients.
As a cost-effective solution to this, the three-member team used rice husks and straw as the raw material, mixed the waste with a resin, and pressed the mixture into particle boards. The new particle boards are fungi- and mould-proof, waterproof, and affordable.
The innovation addresses many challenges such as reducing deforestation and pollution, providing extra source of income for farmers, and providing an environment-friendly, low-cost alternative material for building houses and furniture. Read more