Engineering Innovation in India
1. UoH, ARCI Researchers Develop Chemically Stable Fertilizer
Material scientists and plant biologists from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) and International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) have developed an industrially viable dry method to generate chemically stable and smaller nano-diammonium phosphate (n-DAP) fertilizer that would reduce over-dependence on chemical fertilisers. Subsequent testing of both types of fertilizers on tomato and wheat seedlings demonstrated an extraordinary superiority of nano-DAP fertilizer over the conventional granular DAP (c-DAP). In the lab-scale experiments, the reduced quantity of nano-DAP fertilizer input than c-DAP promoted the early seedlings growth and development in both crops. It also led to enhanced phosphate uptake efficiency in these seedlings. Based on these promising results in the lab-scale experiments, the research team is now planning to test the efficacy of nano-DAP on tomato plants under field conditions. “n-DAP in reduced doses while meeting the plants’ optimum P nutrient requirement would also be preferred for better soil health and agricultural sustainability,” said the research team consisting of Naorem Ronald Reagan Singh, Harita Pant, research scholars at UoH; Srikanth Venkata Satya Siva Vadali and Rahul Kumar, faculty at UoH, and Sreedhara Sudhakara Sarma and Tata Narasinga Rao from ARCI, Hyderabad. While several hurdles remain to be overcome before the real potential of nano-DAP can be realised under field conditions, the researchers think its application in reduced quantity may significantly cut down on the overall input of conventional phosphorous-fertilizers currently applied in agriculture. Their work titled ‘Cryo-milled nano-DAP for enhanced growth of monocot and dicot plants’ was recently published in Nanoscale Advances, a reputed scientific journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK. Chemical fertilizers application is critical to boosting crop productivity. In fact, besides improved varieties and better irrigation methods, one of the factors that contributed to the enhanced crop productivity during the green revolution and afterwards is the application of chemical nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers. However, excessive use of these chemicals over decades has affected the soil quality. Moreover, global phosphorus reserves are finite and likely to be irreversibly exhausted in the next 100-200 years. India lacks big natural P-reserves and meets its P-fertilizers demand by importing. In this context, the research findings assume importance.
2. Indian researchers perfect manufacture of additive used in aircraft engine repair
Indian scientists have for the first time repaired components of an aero-engine using additive manufacturing or a 3D printing technique called the Directed Energy Deposition (DED) process that can significantly reduce repair costs and overhaul time. They have developed indigenously powders suitable for the additive manufacturing process. Nickel-based superalloys are widely used in aero-engine components. Despite having exceptional properties, they are prone to damage due to extreme operational conditions. Manufacturing defects during the casting or machining process are another major cause of rejection, and tonnes of such unused components are scrapped due to minor defects. A team of scientists from the Hyderabad-based International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous R&D Centre of the Department of Science and Technology, indigenously developed powders suitable for additive manufacturing using the inert gas atomiser available at the institute, by melting unused scrap material. Utilising this, ARCI is developing the Laser-DED process for the repair of aero-engine components made of Ni-based superalloy.
Further, the ARCI team has developed a technology to refurbish the pinion housing assembly (critical component in helicopters used for power transmission to the main fan) by machining out the damaged layer and rebuilding it using the laser cladding process, followed by final machining. Laser cladding and Laser-DED (both processes) are the same. In general, termaser cladding is used for two-dimensional deposition (surface coating), and termlaser-DED is used for the manufacture of three-dimensional parts. A patent has been filed for the same. These laser-clad repaired prototypes were found to be free from distortion and exhibited excellent performance. The team has also developed repair and refurbishment technologies for other industrial sectors, such as refurbishing diesel engine cylinder heads made of grey cast iron and refurbishing shafts used in the refinery. This work has been published in the journal Transactions of The Indian Institute of Metals. The technology developed by ARCI can be best realised in the aerospace sector due to the expensive materials used, manufacturing costs, and stringent quality checks, the statement said.
3. NCL-DST Scientists Develop Novel Technology to Disinfect Water
Scientists from the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune in collaboration with the Water Technology Initiative under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), GoI have developed a novel technology to disinfect water. The technology named ‘SWASTIIK’ (Safe Water and Sustainable Technology Initiative from Indian Knowledgebase) is a combined solution for not just disinfecting water, but for offering possible health benefits of natural oils. Pathogenic microorganisms in water are one of the primary root-cause of water-borne diseases. Although, chemical processes such as chlorination strive to do away with water impurities, the formation of carcinogenic disinfection by-products poses a serious health hazard. Thus, it is imperative to develop a technology that provides safe, healthy and cost-effective drinking water with substantial ease of operation, free of harmful disinfectant by-products. SWASTIIK technology is a unique and rather rare amalgamation of modern technology and traditional Ayurvedic knowledge that claims to disinfect water completely. The technique uses hydrodynamic cavitation, combining chemistry, biology, and chemical engineering, with natural resources in the form of natural oils and plant extracts. The process involves boiling of a liquid (water) as a result of pressure reduction called cavitation. It also uses natural oils with antimicrobial properties to eliminate harmful bacteria, including antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. The technology developed by scientists from the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) has significantly increased efficiency and reduced the cost of water treatment. Further, it was observed that the increased rate of disinfection using oil can drastically reduce the time of operation, consequently reducing the cost as compared to other advanced treatment processes. Its health benefits include providing safe drinking water that can boost immunity, an important aspect as underlined during the current pandemic times. Scientists from the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) developed this path-breaking technology to disinfect water sustainably. Dr. V M Bhandari and his group at the CSIR-NCL Pune, with support from the DST, developed the hybrid technology.