Young Turks think out-of-the-box for social change

Innovation galore

Perturbed by the available treatment for lower back pain and the high costs involved, students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D) developed an injectable system that can be administered minus a surgery, imparting a symptomatic effect to treat the patient.

This innovation led Sumit Murab and Shibu C to secure the number two spot at the second edition of the Young Innovators Challenge Awards 2015 organised by 3M India, the Indian subsidiary of US multinational conglomerate 3M Co., in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

“The available treatments for lower back pain are not successful. Current treatment modalities include surgical procedures like discectomy followed by fusion of upper and lower vertebra with metallic screws and nuts. This procedure involves a major, expensive surgery which can lead to partial or complete paralysis. The treatment only stops the disease’s progression by removing the tissue, which doesn’t stop the pain as the nerves still get pressurised in absence of the disc, hindering the patient’s movement for life,” Murab, who is pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering at Centre for Biomedical Engineering, told Metrolife.

He added that it was these reasons which led to the conceptualisation of the injectable silk-in-silk microsphere-hydrogel system. “In patients who have a chronic problem especially the worker class, even when the doctors recommend they can’t go for the surgery because of the high cost and long hospitalisation required post-operation. Generally the labourers earn on a daily basis and can’t afford to lose their earnings for such a long time even if the surgery is done in government hospitals. Thus we thought of developing an injectable system that can be administered without a surgery and should impart a symptomatic effect to treat the patient.”

Along with the IIT-Delhi team, the out-of-the-box ideas by students of Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET), Kochi and IIT, Madras won the first and the third positions respectively.

While RSET was awarded for I-Socket, an advanced intelligent low cost power saving socket meant for household usage, IIT-M won for their idea to treat domestic waste water up to a significant level and harness energy from the grown microalgae.

The RSET team, comprising Libin Varghese and Mebin Joseph, both pursuing their masters in electrical and electronics engineering, explained that I-Socket worked like a switchboard; but with many advanced features and intelligence.

“This device has got two advanced features - in the self learning routine method, our system will study the users' behaviour in using household electrical equipment for a period of one week and automatically turn them off when the user forgets to do so. The system will automatically monitor the total electric power usage in each room and display the value on a LCD screen, always informing the user about power wastage,” Varghese said.

Adding, Joseph said that in the phantom power detection mode, the system would automatically detect whether the active equipment are in standby mode, and if they are in the state for a long time they will be automatically switched off. “Our system will save 20 per cent of electricity and thereby end up saving 30 per cent of the electricity bill,” Joseph said.

The challenge invited entries from candidates who had original ideas with a social relevance. Themes they had to choose from were productivity, sustainability and disruption of old ideas.  

Talking about their project, Nitish Kumar Singh, a student of biological sciences at department of biotechnology, IIT Madras and Venkata Subrahmanyan G, a student of biological engineering at the same department said, “Our innovation is to treat domestic waste water upto a significant level and harness energy from the grown microalgae. Also, we would genetically modify the microalgae to reduce the harvesting and processing costs.”

Ask for what purposes can this harnessed energy be used, and the team said,“ For the production of ethanol and bio-diesel from the lipids of microalgal biomass.

The leftover biomass which includes carbohydrate, protein and other nutrients could be used as fodder for cattle and aquaculture.”The winners were awarded a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh, Rs 1 lakh and Rs 75,000 respectively.

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