Firecrackers have always offered the child within us penultimate thrill and joy, but as we grew up and realised the damage that they cause to the environment, to the body and our wallet, we slowly began to distance ourselves from them.
At a time when firecrackers are being temporarily banned, and schoolchildren, conservationists and animal lovers have initiated social media campaigns against bursting them, Dr Samrat Ghosh, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemical Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISERM), Mohali, is developing ‘green’ firecrackers that are safer, smoke-free and most important reusable.
The green firecracker can be used under any weather conditions, is safe to be used by kids and adults and is made using recycled plastic bottles!
In October 2017, Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, requested scientists from government-backed research institutes to develop e-firecrackers for the purpose of controlling pollution, which would be safe to use. Additionally, their production in India would be a bonus.
This plea from the minister came after the Supreme Court had ordered a temporary ban of firecrackers in the NCR region.
While many were saddened by this decision, Dr Samrat was thrilled.
“We were inspired by the ban imposed by the Supreme Court and the request that Dr Harsh Vardhan made to the scientific community, to come up with e-firecrackers,” says Dr Samrat to The Better India.
Dr Samrat completed his PhD in Combustion Synthesis of Pigments back in 1998. One of his professors was Dr KC Patil, (Professor Emeritus, IISc, Bangalore) who published several papers on novel solutions for combustion techniques, which would go on to become the basis for the ‘green’ firecrackers developed today.
Coming to the innovation, the firecrackers are made of recycled plastic bottles, and sit on a mechanism which uses a combustion recipe, which is a proprietary method of combustion developed by Dr Samrat himself, to blow the bottle on top. When a trigger is pulled the combustion occurs followed by a large bang and the bottle on the top blows off.
Dr Samrat has collected more than 50 waste plastic bottles and has arranged them in his laboratory for experimental usage.
“I have filled combustible material in the disposable bottle. This material is ignited with a source, like a spark. The launcher ignites the material which burns and generates pressure, pushing the bottle upwards, like a rocket” says Dr Samrat, by way of describing the working of the innovation.
Regarding their safety, Dr Samrat says, “This is one of the safest methods of bursting crackers. In the community where I have tested this, even four-year-old kids feel comfortable operating this. Additionally, the combustive recipe in the device is very benign and not at all harmful for the user and the environment.”
The developed recipe releases no smoke, unlike conventional firecrackers and also becomes ineffective in a while. And it’s not just that, the sound level of the device can be adjusted to suit the needs of the users. Additionally, there is no debris formed, and when used, these firecrackers release fragrance into the air, depending on the constituent of the combustible material.
“Instead of smelling like gunpowder, you can smell like lavender at the end of the day,” says Dr Samrat.
Dr Samrat also talks about how unpredictable the traditional firecrackers are. They are known to cause serious injury to the user, from burns to hearing damage, but the innovation developed by him has none of those issues.
Dr Samrat and his team have created both aerial and non-aerial prototypes of the firecrackers.
A firm enthusiast of Indian innovations, Dr Samrat also believes that it can bring about a change in the firecracker industry.
As of now, the technology is still under development and is yet to be patented. However, Samrat has tested the device and received a lot of positive feedback.
“I had so much fun testing out these firecrackers that my students and professors all gave it a try. They all loved it!” he says. As for the fun part, Dr Samrat is keen on using this in a game of Aerial cricket where the batsman fires the bottle, and the fielders try to catch it in efforts to out the batsman before he scores a run.
The firecrackers can be used in various other ways as well. “From driving away animals in agriculture fields to airports using them to clear runways, the device is beneficial in many different situations,” he claims. And since it can be used in any weather, it naturally has an advantage over traditional firecrackers.
Dr Samrat says he seeks no profit from the innovation and if it were up to him, he would first give it to the farmers for free. Not only that, he explains how imported firecrackers devastate the native firecracker companies and actually produce more pollution when used.
Dr Samrat hopes that the innovation will bring joy to people of all ages. From recycling old plastic waste, to making firecrackers eco-friendly and safe, the innovation has all the hallmarks of fun, clean and safe Diwali we all want.
He hopes to release the product soon, with the help of the government and we cannot wait to try it out.
Kudos to Dr Samrat and his team for making firecrackers cool again!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)