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.
Material scientist Viney Dixit and his team at the Hydrogen Energy Center of Banaras Hindu University in India have discovered that carbonized coconut flesh contains secret ingredients that dramatically enhance its ability to store hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a potential renewable fuel because it can easily be generated from water using electrolysis. It also burns cleanly to produce water vapor. The hope is that it could also be distributed using the same global network of liquid fuel transport that moves petrol around the planet. However, one of the main challenges in its wide adoption as a renewable fuel is that hydrogen is difficult to store efficiently as it has a poor energy density by volume compared to petrol. That is why much of the material science research in this area has focused on finding materials that adsorb hydrogen efficiently and then release it again when it is required.
In their research, Viney and his team have shown that coconut outperforms a number of other hydrogen storage materials, particularly in its ability to work over many charging cycles. The team spent some time studying the microstructure of the carbonized coconut flesh to work out why it performs so well. And they have pinpointed two mechanisms. The first is that the carbonized coconut flesh contains a significant amount of potassium chloride, which polarizes the carbon matrix in which it is embedded. This enhances the hydrogen adsorption capacity. The second is that the carbon matrix also contains significant amounts of magnesium, which is known to enhance the dissociation of hydrogen molecules, making them easier to adsorb. That is an interesting result that suggests some promising avenues for future research. Read more