Technology Innovations

Posts Tagged ‘Science

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 sinuplasty device meant primarily to provide chronic sinusitis cases a cost-effective and safer alternative to FESS.

Complete kit of SinuCare

Complete kit of SinuCare

“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.

Double-balloon sinuplasty with SinuCare

(L-R) Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi gives SinuCare training to ENT doctors on a 3D model of the sinuses. On the right, he is conducting double-balloon sinuplasty using SinuCare on a patient in Kolkata.

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.

Key Differentiation

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.

Next Step

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 or call 080-40923864.

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

Source: Guardian and Unicef 

A spoonful of yogurt could soon offer a cheap and simple way to screen for colorectal cancer. MIT Professor Sangeeta Bhatia is working to replace costly and uncomfortable colonoscopies and MRIs with a helping of yogurt followed by a urine test—a cheap method that could improve the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

Bhatia is developing synthetic molecules that can be introduced into the body via yogurt, and will interact with cancer in a way that produces telltale biomarkers. These molecules can then be detected easily when passed in urine.

Bhatia previously developed nanoparticles that find their way to tumors, and are then broken into smaller pieces by enzymes produced by the cancer. The broken up particles are small enough to be collected and concentrated by the kidneys, after which they are excreted. The first iteration of the technique involved the use of lab instruments to analyze urine and find the telltale markers. Now Bhatia has developed a paper-based urine test—like the one you’d use for pregnancy. So far this test has been demonstrated in mice for colorectal cancer and liver fibrosis. Read more

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

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have developed a handheld device that can diagnose malaria within 30 minutes, from just a little drop of blood.

The team has developed a lab prototype of the low-cost diagnostic instrument that takes a small sample of blood, analyzes individual cells, and detects cells that are infected by malaria.  

A team of researchers led by Dr Sai Siva Gorthi, assistant professor at the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, IISc, developed and incubated the device at the Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems (RBCCPS) at IISc.

The device, which is small enough to fit into a hand, has a common optical reader into which the user slides the blood sample in a replaceable microfluidic cartridge, each time a new test is to be performed. Cartridges are preloaded for automated processing of the blood samples. The affected blood cells display morphological features that are different from normal cells; just by looking at the cell images on the LCD display, it’s clear if the cell is infected or not. The device uses algorithms that run on a smartphone-like platform for automatic evaluation and therefore does not require a skilled technician for handling the instrument. Qualitative test results can be known instantaneously while quantitative parasitemia levels are assessed and displayed in about 30 minutes. 

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is rampant in developing countries. In India, over 13 lakh malaria cases were reported in 2011 of which 754 people died. In rural India, due to lack of primary healthcare, villagers have to travel to the nearest town or city for diagnosis. The diagnostic process — from taking blood samples, to manually analyzing them under a microscope, to preparing a report — usually takes more than a day and makes it challenging for healthcare workers to get back with recommendations for treatment. The new approach, however, combines technologies like image processing, microfluidics and microscopy.

Compared to traditional diagnosis methods, the new device collects significantly lower quantities of blood. It analyzes each and every cell present in this tiny drop of blood and gives a visual representation as well as quantitative count of the malaria affected cells. The portable handheld device can easily be modified and extended for diagnosing other diseases as well. Read more

Indian-American Sahil Doshi, a ninth grader from Pittsburg, has recently won ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ award for his innovative design of an eco-friendly battery that seeks to reduce carbon footprint while offering power for household usage. Sahil won the award at 2014 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Sahil’s prototype – the PolluCell – converts carbon dioxide into electricity, ingeniously helping to reduce carbon footprint while offering power for household uses. Watch the complete video for a detailed description of his innovation. Read more

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