Technology for all

Last Updated 15 March 2010, 12:01 IST

The very mention of undergoing medical tests can be a harrowing experience for most patients. An endless wait at the lab to give body fluid samples and then another trip to collect the test reports. Now, imagine a situation where medical tests are conducted in a patient’s home, and test results delivered within minutes. This technology has been made possible by Dhananjaya Dendukuri, PhD in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dendukuri has developed a novel microfluidic-chip based platform to perform low-cost medical diagnostic tests with a focus on immunoassays (protein tests).

The new platform allows samples of blood, urine, saliva, or other body fluids to be loaded directly on to a plastic microfluidic chip and tested for the presence of multiple analytes in a few minutes. “This automated testing platform consists of a fluorescence-based, portable reader and reagent-loaded microfluidic chips...The low development cost of the platform coupled with the sensitivity and reliability of expensive tests will enable a large number of people to have access to health-care tests in under-developed parts of India and other countries,” he adds.

Apparel that heats and cools
ClimaCon, a unique technology, which when used in a jacket, can provide comfort to the user in temperatures ranging from -30°C to +50°C by maintaining the body temperature of the user between 18-40°C. According to 29-year-old Vistakula, the jacket weighs 650-700 grams and is  probably the lightest apparel in the world.

Vistakula’s technology can even be applied to other apparels as well as areas such as infant incubators and cooling large spaces such as auditoriums. “While pursuing my Masters at MIT, I found the process of putting on and taking off additional layers of clothing in winter very cumbersome. To overcome this inconvenience, I started working on developing a jacket with the capacity to both heat and cool. I put the Peltier effect into application for achieving this purpose. But soon I realised that a new technology would have to be developed to make the jacket lightweight and to both heat and cool. I had to work on developing a new heat exchanger or heat sink in order to keep the jacket light. After three years’ worth of effort and experimentation, the weight of the jacket stands at just 650 grams, almost equivalent to the weight of a regular pair of jeans,” says Vistakula.

“The heat exchanger was designed to make use of the breakage of hydrogen bonds for the dissipation of heat rather than the conventional methods of using a fan or cooled liquid for heat removal. A hydrogen bond self-recharging nanomaterial was used to work in extreme conditions. The jacket can be worn and carried around like a normal jacket with up to eight hours of performance on a single charge of batteries. It can also be cleaned and cared for like normal jackets,” he explains.

Carbon to counter terrorism
Think of a simple device that can be used for anti-terrorist operations, counter-insurgency in forested areas, hostage situations, border infiltration monitoring, local law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management, aerial photography and more. Ashish Bhat, one of the founders of the Mumbai-based ideaForge Technology, has developed the world’s smallest and lightest autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), called the Carbon.

The device has been manufactured using carbon fiber composites, and hence the name. Carbon’s intuitive point and click graphical user interface requires minimal user assistance. It flies using four high-speed propellers (quadrotor) that allow vertical take-off and landing and provide the power to soar through the skies. The on-board stabilisation is achieved by a smart intelligent auto-pilot controller receiving inputs from a GPS, gyro, magnetometers, accelerometers, and altitude sensors. The built-in intelligence in the controller system equips the UAV to return to the starting point on its own. The Carbon weighs just 1.5 kilograms and has a range of one kilometer. With externally swappable Li- Pc batteries, it can fly up to 30 minutes per battery charge.

A farmer’s dream innovation
A bachelor in electronics and communication from Visveswaraiah Technological University, Karnataka, Prajwal Kumar specialises in robotics and automation. He has recently developed a remote controlled system for the power tiller. Farmers have to walk along with the power tiller to control its direction.
However, now the electronics remote control device can enable farmers to operate his power tiller without even getting into the field. His other inventions include tree-climbing and harvesting robots, paddy field weeding machine, industrial inspections robots, and an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV).
“His development is a next generation technology and a revolutionary concept in power farming in the agricultural sector with potential for commercialisation across the globe,” says P Suresh Bhat, director, NITK-Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park (NITK-STEP), National Institute of Technology, Karnataka.

(Published 15 March 2010, 11:57 IST)

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