Author – D Nishant Kumar
Engineers have been the building blocks for our nation’s welfare. Their creatively oriented minds have always amazed the world with new discoveries and inventions, possibly extending their utility. Alumni of various Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across India have come up with many unique eco-friendly concepts that have ensured sustainability.
Passive solar water walls
Huge amounts of energy are consumed for building cooling and heating purposes. Apart from other harmful releases like CFCs that have been a major concern for ozone depletion, air conditioners produce 1.5 tons of carbon each year on an average. While there are numerous energy efficient solutions for heat ventilation and cooling, water has a great potential to act as a heat sink, which makes it efficient for both cold and humid weather conditions. The Thermodynamics theory reveals that water is a compatible phase change absorber, which uses the sun’s energy to provide both heating and cooling without relying on any auxiliary sources. A sink is something that can both store and release energy, which applies to water too. It absorbs the sun’s energy and provides warmth during chilly days of winter. Similarly, water soaks up the heat in the summer hot air and cools the surroundings.
Observing this phenomenon, students from IIT Kharagpur, Sahashranshu Maurya and Somrup Chakraborty designed a passive solar water wall using the concept of a water sink. Passive solar water walls are efficient choices by architects while building sustainable homes and buildings. They are highly economical and produce no CFCs or carbon dioxide. Remodeled into the walls, this structure consists of a rectangular tank fitted to the exterior wall, which has a high surface area for effective interaction of air and tank. Thus this is an eco-friendly and cost-effective invention that can cause a 50% reduction in cooling costs. This innovation has received recognition because of its potential to profitably replace air conditioners in the near future.
Swachch Machine – Give plastic, get water
Swachch Machine is an innovative idea developed by former students of IIT Bombay, Anurag Meena, Satyendra Meena and Kunal Dixit, who worked on this worthy invention in just 95 days. It is a vending machine that gives you a glass of water for every recyclable waste dumped in it. You can put used cans, bottles and aluminum jars to its recycle bin, which will then offer you 300ml RO and UV treated pure drinking water. It offers both chilled water and room temperature water as per user preference.
The plastic bottles are then crushed to one-sixth of their size, thus saving space. This interesting machine is installed with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth facility that sends an SMS alert to the administrator when it’s 80% full. The administrator can then collect the waste from the machine. The machine gives a digital token called ‘Trest’, which can be exchanged for 300 ml water. The capacity of the machine is 8 liters.
Anurag Meena was inspired by PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and named it as the ‘Swachch Machine’. The the first pilot machine was installed in the IIT campus itself and it reduced up to 10kg of waste. The machine costs INR50,000 and has been successfully installed in various public places in Mumbai. Such an eco-friendly innovation apart from being sustainable to the environment even provides safe drinking water, especially during summers.
Ecofrost solar storage
Indian farmers suffer from severe grain loss due to lack of proper storage facilities. The cold storage facilities currently available in the market are not affordable for poor farmers. In order to overcome the problem of grain storage, alumni of IIT Kharagpur, Vivek Pandey, Devendra Gupta and Prateek Singhal, designed a revolutionary solar-powered portable storage unit called ‘Ecofrost’.
They designed a thermal storage unit that is capable of storing food items for up to 21 days! Solar panels are housed on top of the storage unit to run the cold storage. In case of a cloudy day, the chemical batteries are put to use for maintaining the temperature up to 36 hours. Storage of about 5 metric tons of grains can be done at a time. The farmers get a mobile app that delivers updates about the condition of food grains under storage and they can control the temperature from their phone.
The idea has gained recognition and success, saving up to 30% of wastage. The shelf life of agricultural products has increased a lot. Moreover, the entire machine is portable so it can be rented easily to farmers during their need. Hence, the cost for installation is eliminated. Today, there are over 75 units successfully installed across India.
The civil engineering department of three different IITs (IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and IIT Madras) have come together with JK Lakshmi Cement to produce a full phase eco-friendly limestone calcined clay cement (LC3). It is used as an additive to concrete, increasing the cement quality. Trail application has shown its potential to reduce carbon dioxide emission by 30% and energy consumption by 20% during cement production. The Indian government has accepted this idea and plans are being made for its implementation.
According to Dr. Arun Kumar, President, Development Alternatives, the LC3 used helps develop the argumentation quality of cement, keeping the base raw material same. The mainstream raw materials used are limestone, gypsum, and calcined clay. The LC3 gets sustainably combined with the cement industry in India. Shashank Bishnoi of IIT Delhi and other authors wrote in the paper that despite the sub-optimal condition of production of the cement, they have demonstrated the viability and robustness of the technology and obtained a good result from it.