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Pollution-free Diwali by 2018? Scientists working on smokeless, reusable electronic-firecrackers

In 2017, the Supreme Court banned the sale of crackers in the National Capital Region around Diwali, but there was spike in pollution levels again last year, primarily due to crackers procured from outside the region.

delhi Updated: Jan 16, 2018 22:42 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Diwali,Firecrackers,Electronic firecrackers
The sale of firecrackers was banned in Delhi in 2017.(HT File Photo)

The festival of lights may soon go fully electronic.

Scientists from top government-backed research institutes have started developing smokeless, eco-friendly “e-crackers” that will simulate the lights, colours and sounds emitted by traditional firecrackers but neither add to pollution, nor be a fire hazard.

India’s premier Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories under the Union science and technology ministry have been asked to create a substitute for firecrackers in a bid to check pollution, which spikes every year in several cities across north India, including Delhi, immediately after Diwali.

“The electronic devices will simulate firecrackers. They will produce cracking and bursting sounds and lights but there won’t be any smoke because there won’t be any chemical combustion,” said Santanu Chaudhury director of CSIR’s Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI) located in Pilani, Rajasthan.

The scientists say a prototype will be ready in six months, and the e-crackers may even be ready for use before Diwali this year.

“The idea was discussed in a meeting held by the Union science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan on January 5. The minister has urged scientists to develop such electronic firecrackers, which will help in reducing pollution after Diwali,” said D Saha, head of the air quality laboratory at the Central Pollution Control Board, the country’s top pollution monitoring agency.

E-firecrackers have small pods connected to each other with wires and twinkling LEDs . When turned on, they produce sounds and lights similar to the conventional firecrackers. Some countries, including China, have already come up with a few non-polluting firecracker variants. These Chinese crackers were sold in Indian markets this Diwali, but India is trying to come up with its own, more affordable, variants .

“This is the first time Indian scientists are trying to develop such e-crackers ,” said Chaudhury.

While CEERI is developing e-fireworks, researchers at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur are working on a pollution-free version of traditional firecrackers .

Firecrackers are highly polluting because manufacturers use a range of compounds that use metals such as barium, antimony, copper and lithium, which emit toxic fumes. Delhi suffered its worst smog in 17 years after firecrackers and fireworks worth crores of rupees were burnt on Diwali in 2016. In 2017, the Supreme Court banned the sale of crackers in the National Capital Region around Diwali, but there was spike in pollution levels again last year, primarily due to crackers procured from outside the region.

“Our research will comprise of two phases. In the first phase, we will work on how to cut down the amount of pollutants which are emitted from firecrackers. Then, we will try to come up with pollution-free crackers ,” said Rakesh Kumar, director of CSIR-NEERI.

Scientists say they are also testing chemicals that could be used in manufacturing smokeless firecrackers, including Azide-based compounds that produce the harmless nitrogen gas on combustion.

First Published: Jan 16, 2018 07:29 IST