An engineer from Tripura developed a technology to generate power using wet cloth. This would power medical diagnostic kits and mobile phones. The outstanding innovation led him on to win the revered Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) award. Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan was present in the event and awarded the engineer for his innovative execution.
The mechanism behind the innovation
Shankha Subhra Das is from Khedabari, a hamlet facing Bangladesh in Sipahijala district. He developed a device that works on capillary action and water evaporation. Das employed a piece of cloth cut to specific dimensions to insert it into a plastic straw. The straw is vertically fixed in a partially filled water container. Copper electrodes stick to both ends of the straw to collect the voltage. When the liquid reaches to the top, due to capillary action, around 700 milli-volts are registered in the voltmeter.
Das explains his pioneering feat
“Here we have used centimeter-sized simple wet fabric pieces or fabric channels for electrical power generation by deploying the interplay of a spontaneously induced ionic motion across fabric nanopores due to capillary action and simultaneous water evaporation by drawing thermal energy from the ambient. Unlike other devices with similar functionalities, our arrangement does not necessitate any input mechanical energy or complex topographical structures to attach in the substrate.” explained Das, who happens to have a Ph.D. from IIT-Kharagpur.
However, the power isn’t enough to charge electrical appliances. Das and his team solved this by connecting a series of 30-40 such devices. The cumulative apparatus generates 12 volts, enough to light a small LED, charge a mobile and power diagnostic devices such as hemoglobin and glucose testing kits.
Innovation aimed for remote areas
Das explained the innovation is part of a funded research project that explores the possibilities of powering low-power devices in remote areas. It started with the objective of developing low-weight, frugal and sustainable power sources for resource-strapped settings. Moreover, a team of innovators with mechanical engineers and a sub-group of Biotech and bio-science experts are now working on achieving a compact design. They will further integrate it with medical diagnostic devices.