With pollution killing 25 lakh Indians a year, the Union Science Ministry has joined hands with world's number one computer chip manufacturer Intel to develop affordable sensors to measure pollutants in air and water.
The pollution data, to be collected by a network of sophisticated sensors developed through the Department of Science and Technology-Intel partnership, could provide a platform to the government to effect a policy change to reduce pollution.
Under the Rs 30-crore project, jointly funded by the DST and Intel, four research projects were awarded on Tuesday to four Indo-US teams for developing pollution measurement sensors and instruments.
A study published in the Lancet in October claimed air pollution accounted for more than 18 lakh deaths in India in 2015, whereas water pollution killed nearly 6.46 lakh Indians in the same year.
One of the air quality monitoring projects is to develop affordable, self-powered sensors to measure common pollutants like PM-2.5, PM-10, ozone as well as oxides of nitrogen and sulphur.
"Such instruments being used by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the moment costs Rs 10 lakh a piece. We want to come out with instruments that would cost Rs 10,000," said Sachhidanand Tripathi, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and principal investigator of the project.
Last October, Intel released its own air quality monitoring tool, which is technologically superior but slimmer than the previous generation equipment. With Indian partnership, the semiconductor major hopes to improve its instrument further.
"You can't change something unless you measure it. To solve a problem, you have to diagnose it first," said Jonayhan Ballon, a vice president of Intel.
In the second air quality monitoring project, the scientists seek to develop and validate a hand-held personal PM-2.5 monitor and other low-cost sensors for vehicle pollution. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, are associated with both projects.
Under the water quality monitoring projects, IIT scientists collaborating with researchers from other Indian as well as US institutes would develop low-cost, multi-parameter, water quality platforms with auto-sampling capabilities.
"Existing sensors for these tasks are too costly and cumbersome. These sensors can be deployed in thousands in a network while the current ones are few and fixed at a particular place," said Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan after awarding the projects.
The teams will have to come up with their new sensors and equipment in the next three years after which another two years would be spent on scaling up these technologies.