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4 Mumbai innovators in MIT technology list

In 2008, VSK Murthy Balijepalli, a doctorate student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), would predict the prices of shares by analysing the stock market merely as a hobby.

mumbai Updated: Mar 26, 2012 01:27 IST
Snehal Rebello
Snehal Rebello
Hindustan Times

In 2008, VSK Murthy Balijepalli, a doctorate student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), would predict the prices of shares by analysing the stock market merely as a hobby.

Over the years, the hobby turned into a profession. The only difference being, Balijepalli replaced the stock exchange with the power industry and developed a technology to forecast the price and load of electricity.

The 26-year-old's technology has found him a spot among the 20 technology innovators in the country selected by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Technology Review India. The magazine announced the names of the young innovators, all below the age of 35, on March 10.

This year, IIT-B has emerged as India's hottest technology innovation centre with three of its researchers in the list. Of the 20 innovators, five belong to Maharashtra - four of which are from Mumbai (See Profiles).

On March 27, these young innovators will share the stage with eminent scientists and academics from MIT at the MIT Technology Review's emerging technologies conference at Bangalore, Karnataka.

In its third year, MIT Tech Review India received 250 nominations from those below the age of 35 years. Last year there were 200 nominations, while in 2010 there were only 110 entries. In 2011, 18 Indian innovations made it to the final list.

Till date, Technology Review India has identified 37 young innovators, most of who represent small and medium-sized private research institutions.

“Two decades of economic liberalisation has unleashed the innovative energies of Indians in private sector firms in the technology sector. But seeing the presence of technology innovators from the country's public institutions in this edition is a matter of pride,” said Narayanan Suresh, editor, Technology Review India.

Mumbai is second to Bangalore, which had five innovators that made it to the prestigious list.

Bangalore-based executive, Anirudh Sharma, 24, has been named Indian Innovator of the Year under the age of 35. Sharma designed a shoe that guides the vision impaired in the direction that they need to go.

Chemotherapy through an inhaler
Nitin Joshi, 28
Field: Biomedicine
Innovation: Non-invasive chemotherapy
Institute: Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, Powai

Moving away from the painful method of administering chemotherapy intravenously, Nitin Joshi has developed a way to inhale anti-cancer drugs.

He has developed a dual compartment nano particle — a microscopic particle containing two anti-cancer drugs — that lung cancer patients can inhale during chemotherapy sessions.

“In advanced cases of lung cancer, doctors prescribe a combination of drugs that create a lot of toxicity in the body. Conventional chemotherapy is limited because of its non-specificity, poor pharmacokinetics (study of how the body reacts to the drug) and multi-drug resistance,” said Joshi, a PhD student. “We have developed a mechanism that increases the effectiveness of the drug and decreases toxicity and side-effects.”

In liquid form, these multi-compartment nanostructures with anticancer drugs - paclitaxel and curcumin - can be balanced for accurate release into the lungs. “Administering non-invasive chemotherapy means aerosol delivery of drugs, similar to the inhalation system used by asthmatics. The solution has to be put into a nebuliser and when the patient inhales the drug, the mist will directly reach the lungs,” said Joshi, who started his research three-and-a-half years ago. The dual compartment technology has been patented. The animal trials are complete and it is in the clinical trials stage.

There is no polluting smoke with this fire
Vanteru Reddy, 30
Field: Energy
Innovation: Flameless combustion with liquid fuels
Institute: Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, Powai

Concerned about global warming and its effects on humans, Vanteru Reddy has achieved flameless combustion with liquid fuels that are used in aircraft engines and industrial furnaces. Using kerosene as fuel and air as oxidiser, Reddy has developed a laboratory-scale flameless combustor that can reduce nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions. “Global warming can be controlled by bringing down the levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Nitrogen dioxide can cause acid rains and bio-depletion of oxygen,” said Reddy, PhD student. “Therefore, it was important to develop a system that can operate in flameless combustion mode with liquid fuels and reduce emission levels.” While researchers have achieved flameless combustion with gaseous fuels, there has been very little work reported on flameless combustion with liquid fuels. Burning of liquid fuels flamelessly is more difficult compared to gaseous fuels because of several processes involved. The Aeronautics Research and Development Board, Bangalore has tested Reddy's technology.

Betting on the price, load of electricity
VSK Murthy, 26
Field: Energy
Innovation: Forecasting the price and load of electricity
Institute: Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, Powai

This technology on predicting accurate electricity price and load can improve energy efficiency in distribution networks across India. Called km-stochastic error correction technique (km-SEC), VSK Murthy Balijepalli's patented innovation is customised for Indian players to provide an accurate forecast of electricity price, effective load, and grid frequency. The technology will help private players predict the cost of electricity which will help them bid at the Indian Energy Exchange market.

“At present, tools to predict price and load of electricity have to be customised for Indian players. A 0.5% improvement in price forecasting will save billions of rupees for a utility with 600 megawatt capacity and monthly savings of 18% to 22% in electricity bills for commercial buildings,” said Balijepalli, a PhD student IIT-B. Since last year, Balijepalli has been receiving royalty for this technology after it was commercialised through licensing by Kalkitech, a Bangalore-based company working on smart grid solutions.

Putting city’s carbon emissions to good use
Vivek Nair, 23
Field: Materials
Innovation: Carbon nanotubes from carbon emissions
company: Damascus Fortune, Panvel.

He uses polluting carbon emissions as a raw material and converts them into carbon nanotubes - a black powder, which can be used to make products such as steel and rubber more durable.

Vivek Nair's one-year-old start-up, Damascus Fortune, has tied up with rice mills to capture their carbon emissions and make carbon nanotubes.

“The traditional approach of producing carbon nanotubes matches with conditions found in industrial furnaces and even vehicular exhausts,” said Nair, a PhD student at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

The challenge is to manufacture carbon nanotubes on a mass scale. His work has also won him the National Research Development Corporation Budding Innovations Award.

First Published: Mar 26, 2012 01:24 IST