Center for Grand Challenges & Green Technologies

Thrust Areas

Think globally, act locally.
Prove your inventions, innovations on the shop floor.
India don’t need poor solutions for poor people; it needs the smartest ones.
Dr. Prakash Somani

We aim to solve humanity’s current and critical problems by using science and technology, inventions, innovations, discoveries, product development and commercialization as tools; and contribute to the betterment of the global society.

Our R & D efforts are closely associated with the ‘Humanity’s Top 10 Problems for the next 50 years’ identified by Nobel Laureate Sir R. Smalley; and ‘Green Chemistry’ principles developed by Paul Anastas and John Warner; and ‘Green Engineering’ principles developed by Paul Anastas and Julie Zimmerman. We understand that the problems identified by Nobel Laureate Sir R. Smalley are very much applicable in Indian and Global context and hence needs to be addressed.

Our R & D efforts are directed towards those areas and topics which can impact millions of lives on the earth. Some of them are:

Green Chemistry (Science) and Technologies: Developing environment-friendly (Green) and sustainable products, processes, and technologies.

Biochemical Technology: Production of chemicals / materials (including fuels) and other products through biological transformations of bio-based and renewable feedstock (e.g. biomass, waste CO2, methane etc.).

Developing electricity-free production processes, products, and technologies: Availability of electricity in different parts of India, particularly in the rural regions, is very poor. In some of the villages (even near to metro cities), the electricity is available for as low as 4 – 6 hours (out of 24 hours/day). Similar is the situation for water. There is a strong need for the development of products, processes, and business models – which can run without electricity or by using renewable and locally available electric power such as solar photovoltaic electricity. There is a need for effective utilization (i.e. reducing and re-utilizing) of water in different production processes. We aim to develop such products, processes, and commercialize them – for improving rural economy, empowerment of rural people (particularly those of low income groups), reducing migration to cities and improving self-employment of rural people.

Product development and commercialization: We aim to develop and commercialize new products and processes based on our indigenous R & D. We work with ‘Forward Innovation Policy’.

Critical, strategic, advanced materials and specialty chemicals: Many specialty chemicals; critically needed, strategic and advanced materials; nanomaterial are not manufactured in India yet. Reason is two-fold: (a) either we do not have the technology and capabilities for manufacturing the same or (b) Due to specialized nature and applications of such chemicals/materials, the actual demand (in quantity) is limited and hence less interest by industry due to economic view-point. Both the reasons are true on case-to-case basis. We are interested to create in-house capabilities and start indigenous production of such chemicals/materials.

We work with following three considerations:

1. Import substitution
2. Critically and strategically needed but not yet manufactured in India
3. Export orientation

Energy: Energy is the prime requirement of humans for living as well as running industries. Law of conservation of energy i.e. energy can neither be created nor be destroyed; but one form of energy can be converted into another form – leaves no scope for energy generation. Also, at every stage of energy conversion from one form to another – a part of the energy is lost as against useful work (as the efficiency of any machine can not be 100% - yet another fundamental law of thermodynamics).

Out of the various forms of energy, electric energy (electricity) is the most widely used and sought after. Depleting and/or limited conventional energy sources such as coal, natural gas, petroleum products like petrol, diesel, kerosene etc., hydroelectric; are forcing us to look for alternatives like nuclear and geothermal energy; or renewable energy sources such as solar energy, wind energy, bio-energy, and hydrogen (energy farming). Huge power losses in long distance transmission of electricity through grid promotes for local generation, storage and usage of electricity. Thus, efficient and economical - energy conversion and storage devices - become most important.

Transportation sector (which was fully dependent on liquid petroleum fuels such as petrol and diesel) is going through a major change with electric vehicles as the next generation technology. China has already taken steps towards stopping production and use of petrol and diesel cars – in order to push for non-polluting electric vehicles. Indian companies are gearing up for production of electric vehicles in India.

Our efforts are directed as follows:

1. Solar Energy – Photovoltaics, Photothermal, solar photocatalytic hydrogen production, solar desalination
2. Bio-energy – Biodiesel and bio-energy, bio-fuel cells
3. Energy conversion & storage devices – Batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells, materials/chemicals required for such devices & applications
4. Reducing wastage of energy by innovating efficient products and processes
5. Environmentally-clean energy conversion and storage
6. Energy for next generation transportation

Water: About 70 % of the earth’s surface is covered with water. However, about 97 % of the water on the earth is salt (sea) water – which can not be directly used for drinking, washing cloths, bathing, and agriculture. Addition to it is the fact that we are polluting our sweet water (rivers) by mixing industrial waste, throwing garbage, dead animals etc. Unequal distribution of water (i.e. rivers flowing) by nature and (dams build by) humans; and near to complete unavailability in certain parts of the country/world makes ‘water’ a very serious issue.

Our efforts are directed as follows:

1. Developing technologies, innovative and economical solutions for producing potable/drinking water (Pure drinking water for every person in India and the world)
2. Developing technologies for industrial waste water purification and reuse
3. Developing technologies, strategies, action plans for ‘Water for agriculture’
4. Desalination – Removing salts from sea/salty water and making it useful for various applications

Environment: Concentration of population in cities (mainly because of employment opportunity; availability of electricity, water, food, healthcare, education to children etc.) , unplanned cities and infrastructure, overconsumption of natural resources, pollution and green-house gases are all contributing for degradation of environment around us. Air-polluted Delhi is a classic live example. Probably, Delhi will be the first city in the world where odd-even rule has been applied in 2015-16 (What a pity!). Still, the problems of Delhi’s air-pollution or traffic jam have not been and will not be solved. Similar is the case for many other cities in India. Many of the Indian cities are featuring in the top polluted cities in the world (What a shame).

Our efforts are directed as follows:

a) Air, water, and noise pollution
b) Depolymerisation and plastic degradation: Depolymerisation of polymers to get monomers, Biodiesel from plastic, degradation of plastic using bacteria.
c) Recycling for circular economy:
1) Recycling of advanced, strategic, and critical materials
2) Recycling of battery, supercapacitor, and fuel cell materials
3) Recycling of electronic waste (Mobile phones, Li-ion batteries, lead acid batteries, LCDs, fluorescent lamps etc.)
4. Recycling of paper waste
5) Recycling of plastic waste
6) Recycling of cloths
7) Recycling of activated carbon
8) Recycling of polymers
d) Planting the trees – Easiest way for fixation of CO2, greenhouse effects, reducing air pollution

Unemployment and poverty: On one hand, Indian Industry is not getting skilled manpower; and on the other hand, there are many graduates and post-graduates who are not getting the job. It is established and accepted fact that best brains (getting trained through IITs and other top Indian educational institutions) are often going out of the country (many a times never to come back). Recent news (*Only 2% of the ISROs engineers are from IITs and NITs) highlights the same fact. Remaining young youths (which do not go out of India) lacks subject expertise, practical experience, confidence, professional and soft skills. We aim to transform such youths so that they do not ask for jobs but create jobs for others too.

Our efforts are directed in the following directions:

1. Creating, promoting, mentoring, training entrepreneurs for starting at least 100 new small-scale companies and enterprises
2. Establishing a not-for-profit society for the welfare of ‘Unemployed Young Youths of India’
3. Providing career guidance for educated, unemployed young youths of India.
4. Transferring technology for starting new technology based businesses in India

Education: We believe ‘Knowledge is power supreme’ and education is the first step towards ‘Knowledge’. Quality and affordable education – both are ‘need-of-the-hour’ in India. ‘Education’ has become a highly profitable business in India (dubbed as Education Industry) and is even not done with any/business ethics. We feel need to restore our Great Indian traditional educational system (Gurukul system) on a modern 21st century platform.

We plan to empower the youths with skills, knowledge, and expertise through our short-term and specialized training programs.
Some of which are:

1. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
2. Scientific writing
3. Repair of scientific instruments
4. Repair of medical and biomedical instruments
5. Glass products manufacturing
6. Clean room manufacturing and working in clean room for pharma industry
7. Characterization instruments (FTIR, GC, HPLC, TLC, UV-VIS, etc.)
8. Characterization instruments for Pharma industry (UV-VIS, FTIR, GC, NMR and Mass spectroscopy)
9. Two wheeler repair and assembly
10. Tally
11. Web site designing
12. Engineering drawing software – Solid Edge and Solid Works

We recognize that distance education and e-education can play a vital role in educating people in the current century.

Affordable medicine and healthcare: Indians on an average live a life of about 66 years as against our Asian neighbours - Chinese (75 years), South Koreans (80 years), and Japanese (84 years). This is partly related with poor quality of life; poor quality of food, water and air; and lack of good healthcare and medicine facilities; pollution and fast communicable diseases.

India has become hub for diseases like diabetes, tuberculosis (TB), cancer, malaria, AIDS, various skin diseases, kidney stone, childhood deaths due to malnutrition, and many others.

Although, pharmaceutical industry is very strong in India and doing quite well; the actual price of many medicines is still quite high. Similarly, medical treatment in India is quite expensive (from the view point of an average middle economic class Indian) and ever increasing in spite of the fact that medical tourism in India is on rise. Every Indian spends about 30 - 50% of his life’s income on medicines and health care.

Our efforts are directed towards:

1. Affordable medicines
2. Healthcare services
3. Indigenous development and commercialization of medical instruments and health care products

Agriculture and food: We do recognize that whatever technological advances we do; at the end of the day when we are hungry and thirsty, we need food and water. Industrial products, money, gold, and any other thing can not replace food and water. For a country like India (with huge population and mouths to feed), agriculture and agro-based industries is the most important sector. It has remained the back-bone of the country. Indian agriculture and allied activities have witnessed a green revolution, a white revolution, a yellow revolution, and a blue revolution. Still, there is a long way to go.

Our efforts are directed towards:

1. Organic farming
2. Biochar
3. Natural pesticides
4. Natural fertilizers
5. Biogas / Gobar gas – as a fuel
6. Developing instruments useful for agriculture
7. Finding new ways of generating income for farmers by doing secondary business along with agriculture
8. Water bank (Our own unique concept)
9. Seed bank (Our own unique concept)
10. Vertical farming
11. Underground farming
12. Cold storages and long term storage of food
13. Inventing new food products and their recipes

Population: India is the second most populous country (after China) with a total population more than 1.32 billion in 2016; and is predicated to have more than 1.53 billion people by 2030. Currently (2016), enjoying the fact that India is home to world’s largest youth population aged between 20 – 30 years and booming economy.

However, situation after 20 – 25 years will be drastically opposite. This will be an ageing and dying society. All the problems that China is currently facing; India will have to face one day. At least, China has controlled (to some extent), the rate of increase of population by adopting compulsory ‘One Child Policy’. Many other problems such as availability of food, housing, land, water, education, quality life, poverty, infrastructure, health, energy needs, etc. are all directly or indirectly related to the population and are expected to become only severe with further increase in Indian population. In India, we always have a policy of ‘No Policy or Not implementing any policy properly’. We need to be ready for the near-future situation.

Our efforts are directed towards:

1. Educating youths about the problems arising from over-population
2. Encouraging youths to postpone marriage and pregnancy – at least by an year – voluntarily
3. Creating emergency support systems (such as ambulance, old age homes etc.) for senior citizens

* Just 2% of ISROs engineers are from IITs and NITs
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Just-2-of-Isros-engineers-are-from-IITs-NITs/articleshow/43458127.cms
Payal Gwalani & Adarsh Jain | TNN | Sep 26, 2014, 01.16 AM IST

( Dr. Prakash Somani - 3rd October 2017 )


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