Innovative university driving social change in India

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India – A unique bio–degradable plastic has developed by Amity faculty with the potential to solve the global pollution crisis brought about by plastic products, especially polythene products.

Dr Harsha Kharkwal, a faculty member of the Amity Centre for Carbohydrate Research, was the innovator behind this bio–degradable plastic. One of the distinctive advantages of this bio–degradable plastic is its low cost which makes it commercially viable. As Dr Harsha Kharkwal herself puts it, “it uses indigenous resources in their natural form and not as polymers, as in other biodegradable plastics available in the market.”

Due to its unique composition, this biodegradable plastic decomposes naturally within two months, turning into a soil–like composition. The product has a shelf–life of 4–5 years and can be manufactured at an extremely competitive rate of only US$2.5 per kilogram using Indigenous resources in their natural form at a low cost of production.

It is the recognition of the immense potential of this material and other Amity innovations, that a memorandum of understanding was signed between Amity University and GXT Green, a Boston based MNC, to facilitate a joint endeavor which will introduce cost-effective biodegradable products for regular usage by the masses.

Amity’s philosophy towards research and innovation, from the very beginning has been based on what is known as “frugal innovation”. Dr Atul Chauhan, chancellor Amity University, explains, “Our mission is to take every innovation and commercially scale it up to benefit every stratam of society. The focus is on bringing about meaningful change by finding low–cost, pragmatic solutions to real–life problems.”

He further adds: “A guiding motto for us is ‘from lab to land’, and our Magic Fungus ‘ROOTONIC’ is an ideal example of this.”

ROOTONIC, a plant root fungus developed at Amity, has close to “magical” benefits for crops. Farmers in India have already tested it out in diverse climatic conditions, and benefitted from it. ROOTONIC enhances the yield of crops, builds resistance against disease, and enhances the tolerance of crops to extreme temperatures, with successful testing in high altitudes where temperatures were as low as –14 degrees Celsius.

Researchers at Amity University have also developed a portable, low cost water purifier based on Silver Nano Embedded Porous Concrete Pebbles. This water purification system needs no external power supply, is re–usable, and works like a tea bag, requiring to be dipped in a glass of water for 2–3 minutes, to turn it into clean drinking water. This innovation won the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships: 2015 run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, London.

Amity is further expanding its innovation footprint in diverse areas like solar energy, thin film technology, nuclear science, post-harvest technology and nanotechnology, and is striving to commercially scale up innovations and bring the benefits to society as a whole.