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.
About 9.86 crore people (8%) in India suffer from sinusitis, according to the Government of India’s Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, for the chronic cases who do not benefit from medication, a team of researchers at InnAccel, Bangalore, has developed a device called SinuCare to provide long-term relief within a day.
Sinusitis is a condition in which the openings of the sinuses (the cavities in the bones in our forehead, cheeks, and the nose which form the respiratory tract from the nose into the throat) swell and clog the airflow inside them. The inflammation (swelling and redness) is caused due to infection, allergies, air pollution, or structural issues in the nose. Some of the common symptoms of sinusitis are thick nasal mucus, a plugged nose, pain in the face, fever, headaches, poor sense of smell, sore throat, and/or cough.
Why it matters
In most cases, sinusitis can be treated by medication. However, it is considered as a chronic case if the condition continues beyond three months. To chronic sinusitis patients who fail to benefit from medicines, doctors usually suggest functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) to widen the sinus openings, clear any collected secretions, and to ventilate the sinuses and the nasal cavity. However, FESS is not only an expensive procedure, but is also quite invasive, as it requires surgical removal of many bony structures within the nasal cavity. It, therefore, carries a higher risk of complications and over-ventilation of the sinuses which can hamper its normal functioning.
As per a survey conducted by the InnAccel team, of the total number of sinusitis patients who visit an ENT doctor, on an average nearly 45 percent are counseled for FESS. However, most patients choose to try alternative forms of healing and avoid surgery till the extent it becomes essential. Two major reasons for this that emerged from the survey are: the cost (in India FESS cost ranges from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 130,000) and the fear of complications or physical damage due to the operation under general anesthesia.
SinuCare is a minimally-invasive balloon sinuplastydevice meant primarily to provide chronic sinusitis cases a cost-effective and safer alternative to FESS.
“With SinuCare we have tried to alleviate the concerns of chronic sinusitis patients. SinuCare is a simple metal device that uses a disposable double-balloon dilator, which is inserted into the blocked sinus openings through the nose. When the double-balloon dilator is inflated with saline in the blocked cavity, it expands and remodels the sinus openings, clearing the respiratory cavities by causing tiny bone fractures. Unlike FESS, balloon sinuplasty using SinuCare does not require any tissue removal, thus decreasing the risk of complications that arise from excessive removal of bony tissue and reducing the time for recovery. Moreover, an ENT doctor can operate SinuCare in his or her clinic, thereby reducing the cost of hospitalization for the patient,” explains Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi, 33, who is a co-inventor of SinuCare.
Dr. Chaturvedi is an ENT specialist in Bangalore. In 2016, he won the MIT Technology Review’s TR35 Award for Young Innovators under 35 for one of his medical device innovations. At InnAccel, he develops new medical devices with cross-disciplinary teams and mentors young researchers and professionals in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
He is now conducting awareness sessions for ENT doctors on the use and benefits of SinuCare. “We have trained over a 100 ENT surgeons across the country and some of these doctors have started counseling and treating patients with SinuCare and the feedback from them and the patients has been very satisfying. I am also travelling to various cities to perform surgeries and train doctors on how to use SinuCare,” he adds.
The InnAccel team has filed a patent in India for SinuCare. They have also applied for the CE (European Union) quality certification for the device.
How it works
SinuCare comprises a navigation system through which the doctor manually inserts a soft polymer double-balloon dilator into the nose, to unclog the openings of blocked sinuses.
When the double-balloon dilator reaches the target, the doctor infuses the balloons with saline at 12 atmospheric pressure with the help of a pressure pump. As the balloons expand to their maximum diameter of six millimeters, they remodel the sinus opening and allow the mucus to drain out from the cavity, giving way to better ventilation. Finally, the dilator is removed and the device is pulled out of the patient’s nasal cavity.
The procedure is repeated for each blocked sinus. Following the complete procedure, the doctor keeps the patient under observation for an hour as a precautionary step to watch for any bleeding or dizziness. It takes about four to five hours for the entire procedure to complete, from the time the patient is given anesthesia to the clearing of the sinuses to when the patient is advised to go.
Unlike existing balloon sinuplasty devices which use a guidewire for inserting the balloon dilator into the nose till it reaches a clogged cavity, SinuCare has provisioned for ENT doctors to mount their endoscopic camera for a clear view of the sinuses and blockages. A guidewire is a polymer wire that is put alongside/inside the dilator to allow the doctor to feel the sinus blockage. However, it increases the cost of the device, the number of components it comprises, and the skill requirement to carry out the procedure.
The other key different feature of SinuCare is that its guiding system is a reusable product. The double-balloon dilator is the only disposable material in SinuCare whereas other sinuplasty devices are completely disposable. Without the dilator, SinuCare can be completely sterilized for reuse, enabling reduction of the total cost of the device for the doctors as well as that of the overall treatment.
Currently, SinuCare is being recommended and used by co-inventor Dr. Sunil Narayan Dutt, world renowned Otolaryngologist and Head of ENT at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore and by Dr. P.S. Pradeep Kumar, Founder and Medical Director, Meenakshi ENT Specialty Hospital, Bangalore. They have been contributing feedback in the making of SinuCare.
The product is being packaged as a kit that comprises the main device, three dilators, and a pressure pump. SinuCare kit is priced at approximately Rs. 30,000 for the ENT doctors, and the treatment cost ranges between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 60,000.
While the guiding system of SinuCare has been designed and manufactured in India, the disposable double-balloon dilator for it, also designed in India, is being contract manufactured by Surmodics in Ireland. “We want Indian manufacturers to come forward and create good quality products for us. Under the government’s Make in India initiative, we are trying to manufacture devices in India – one for giving business within the country and second to minimize the cost. The manufacturing scope is big in the field of medical devices. However, we are yet to see innovative manufacturers who are willing to work with a development team, experiment with business models and to give the same quality as foreign suppliers,” says Pooja Kadambi, the team’s lead engineer and co-inventor who has significantly contributed in designing and manufacturing of SinuCare.
ENT doctors, patients with chronic sinusitis, and manufacturers can write to Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 080-40923864.
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.