After Nano and Swachch, Tata bets on 1-½ bottles of water! | autos | Hindustan Times
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After Nano and Swachch, Tata bets on 1-½ bottles of water!

autos Updated: Mar 23, 2011 22:55 IST
Samar Harlankar
Samar Harlankar
Hindustan Times
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In the first such effort, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata has signed on a leading scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to commercialise cutting-edge research that promises to produce cheap power from water.

Daniel Nocera, professor of chemistry and energy, and his group of scientists at MIT attracted attention from Tata when he heard they had found a way to imitate photosynthesis - the process by which plants breathe - and produce power while doing so.

"I met him in September, and in October we signed," Nocera told Hindustan Times on the sidelines of Emtech India, a technology conference organised by MIT's Technology Review magazine. He refused to give more details.

As he did with the Nano and no-electricity water purifier Swachch, Tata hopes Nocera's solution will be the latest in the group's effort to serve the "bottom of the pyramid" and turn a profit while doing so, said a Tata executive on the condition of anonymity.

Tata's hope is that Nocera's "personalised energy" can produce a standalone, mini-power plant, perhaps a refrigerator-sized box, that could reinvent rural electricity supply.

MIT's technique has seen more than a year of preliminary research and hopes to produce enough electricity from a bottle and half of water, however dirty, to power a small home, said Nocera.

"We hope to have a prototype in a year and a half," he said.

Nocera's solution can use even human waste water, "from the front and back", as he put it laconically. If his solution works, a swimming pool of water a day can meet the world's power needs.

And to think that it was just 45-days ago that Nocera's scientists made their breakthrough - generating power from an artifical silicon "leaf" coated with a solution of cobalt and phosphate by dipping it in water.