In the recent years, there has been a ton of buzz about innovations that can help build a better world. For instance, eco-friendly edible cutlery, solar trees that harvest rainwater and self-watering moss walls that eat polluted air.
All of these ideas had to start somewhere and for some time now, we have been seeing the innovators behind these ingenious products getting younger and younger.
In recent years, dynamic IITians from across the country have been picturing a better India and finding a solution to make it happen. From zero-energy villas to machines that give water in return for waste, these ideas have the potential to truly impact the way people live.
Here are 10 amazing innovations that can offer solutions to some of India’s most pressing problems.
1. Passive Solar Water Wall
Two students from IIT Kharagpur, Sahashranshu Maurya and Somrup Chakraborty, have come up with an alternative option that could act as a potential replacement for energy-guzzling air conditioners.
Called Passive Solar Water Wall, their unusual cooling system revolves around a rectangular water tank fitted into a wall — its very high surface area allows maximum interaction between the air and the tank walls, thus helping it cool rapidly. The heat absorbed is continuously removed from the system by daily household use of water.
ACs contribute to about 35 percent of total household electricity consumption and produces 1.5 tonnes of carbon every year. The passive solar water wall takes these considerations into account. Which is why its benefits include no CFC and carbon emission, minimal electricity usage and a whopping 50 percent reduction in cooling cost!
India is home to the largest population of visually challenged people in the world and many of them use the traditional white cane to move about. However, this cane can only help them detect obstacles on the ground and within a maximum range of half to one meter.
Thus, blind people often bump into hazardous over-hanging branches, protruding ACs, signboards and parked vehicles. Apart from causing injury, these unwanted collisions are awkward or unsettling and make them anxious, severely limiting their independent mobility.
To overcome this hurdle, a group of passionate technologists, an IIT professor and a social entrepreneur joined hands and came up with SmartCane. The foldable, light-weight and robust cane helps its user diagnose any above-the-knee obstruction from a distance of 3 meters. Frugality and resourcefulness have ensured that this product costs only INR 3,000.
3. Water-For-Plastic Machine
Two former IIT-Bombay students, Anurag Meena and Satyendra Meena, have collaborated with Trestor (a Chandigarh-based start-up) to build a ‘Swachch Machine’ that lets you get rid of your plastic waste and get clean drinking water for it! At a time when Indian cities are heading towards major garbage problem as well a drought-like situation, this innovation comes as a boon.
The idea: For every recyclable waste item (like used cans and bottles) one puts inside the machine, they will be rewarded with a digital value token (called ‘trest’) that can be exchanged for 300 ml of clean drinking water. Designed and developed in just 95 days, it can provide water at room temperature as well as chilled, good for the rising heat this summer.
One can also put non-recyclable waste in it. However, one does not get any trest in return. The machine reduces the waste to one-sixth of its size. When it reaches 80% of its capacity, it sends an SMS or a voice note to the administrator.
4. Dirt Detector
Researchers of IIT-Kharagpur, have achieved another feat by innovating a low-cost dirt detector that will soon open up the possibility of keeping public facilities clean and hygienic at all times.
Their device can be placed in places where cleanliness needs to be monitored on a regular basis.The smart hygiene monitor (SHM) can record the levels of ammonia, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter with the help of sensors.
It also sends online alerts via the cloud to stakeholders as and when the prognostic threshold gets crossed, indicating the room condition as well as the need to clean it. This can be a boon for maintaining hygiene at public facilities like toilets, hospitals, eating joints, parks, railway stations, and airports that are cleaned only once in a while.
5. Solar-Powered Cold Storage
Every year, Indian farmers lose over thirty percent of their harvest due to lack of proper infrastructure and storage facilities. However, thanks to a solution developed by Devendra Gupta, Prateek Singhal, and Vivek Pandey (alumni of IIT Kharagpur), farmers can now increase the shelf life of their products and operate in a wider market.
Their product, Ecofrost, provides farmers with a solar-powered cold-storage unit, which can be used to preserve produce that tends to spoil quickly, such as spinach, tomatoes, or capsicum. These products can now be stored for up to 21 days!
Farmers can control the temperature from their phone by selecting the product that they want to store. The storage unit then automatically regulates the optimum temperature. On days when there is no sun, the facility is equipped with chemical batteries that maintain temperatures up to 30 hours.
6. Intelligent Street Lights
Chennai drains 331.32 megawatts of electricity, spending Rs 52.08 crores per year, on street lighting. Out of this, around 30-40% goes waste.
To address this problem of power wastage, a team of students at IIT-Madras has developed an intelligent lighting system, which ensures that street-lights are at their maximum brightness, only on detecting vehicular movement.
When roads turn empty, thanks to sensors and a cloud network, the lights go dim by around 30%. The project has been tested on the IIT-Madras campus, in various places, and the results were favourable. The lifespan of the system is 15 years.
7. Zero-Energy House
Imagine a fully functional house that requires net zero electricity and in turn, stores energy for future use. A group of about 70 engineering and architecture students from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have designed exactly this.
The brainchild of team SHUNYA or ‘Sustainable Habitat for an Urbanizing Nation by its Young Aspirants’, Project Solarise’ is a 2,000 sq ft solar-powered villa that comprises three well-furnished rooms along with a kitchen that is amply lit and air-conditioned.
The energy supply for the house is generated on its rooftop through solar panels, which has the added ability to route excess energy generated on sunny days to a power grid. Not limited just to the house, even the appliances (oven, cooker, etc.) in this fully functional house are powered by solar energy.
8. Touch-Responsive TB Medical Kit
A former IIT Guwahati student, Himanshu Seth has come up with a low-cost medical kit that not only dispenses medicine for TB, but also educates the patient. Called Parichaya, the plate-shaped device is equipped with a touch-responsive audio and visual interface.
After a patient is diagnosed with TB, he/she has to travel to a clinic nearly 50 times because they have to take their medication in view of an observer. Moreover, they have to give a gap of 5-6 minutes between each dose to avoid side effects.
Parichaya uses this gap of five to six minutes to interact with the patient, where they can listen to around 14 segments of information, including why they need to take this particular medicine. A new disc is provided at each treatment session.
9. Energy-Efficient Fans
In the quintessential Indian summer, fans run 24×7, raising electricity bills and consuming staggering quantities of power. A group of IIT-Bombay alumni — Manoj Meena, Sibabrata Das and Arindam — have taken it upon themselves to find a sustainable solution, resulting in an innovative product named the Gorilla fan.
At its highest speed, a Gorilla fan consumes just 28 Watts (one-third the power consumed by other ceiling fans!). Also, the fan’s life expectancy is around 20-25 years and it works in a wide voltage range of 110-285V.
There are an estimated 246 million ceiling fans in India. According to the founders, if one considers an average running time of 10 hours for 300 days, Gorilla fans can save 2782 (GWH) units per year. Not only does this make ceiling fans more affordable for many families in India, it should be sufficient to provide electricity access to 200 million families!
10. Waste Oil To Biodiesel Converter
Did you know that India produces around 9.2 million tonnes of waste cooking oil in a year (the highest in the world)? And that the cooking oil that we waste every day can be converted into biodiesel and can solve 25 percent to 30 percent of India’s energy deficit?
Three students from IIT Delhi — Abhishek Sharma, Harshit Agarwal and Mohit Soni — have made it possible through an eco-friendly, efficient and easily adaptable innovation that will enable small hotels, restaurants and even households to convert their daily cooking oil waste into biodiesel within a few minutes.
A washing machine-sized device that takes an hour’s time to convert waste cooking oil into biodiesel, the innovation can also use oilseeds, algae oil and jatropha oil to produce biodiesel. Furthermore, the technology is simple and cheaper than wind or solar energy!