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Updated: December 13, 2012 20:45 IST

An effort to conserve fuel

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EXPLORING NEW AVENUES: Students of Akshara Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Madurai, with their guide Asha Kannan (centre). Photo:S. James
EXPLORING NEW AVENUES: Students of Akshara Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Madurai, with their guide Asha Kannan (centre). Photo:S. James

Students of Akshara Matriculation Higher Secondary School come up with an innovative product.

At a time when government is imposing an annual cap on the use of subsidised LPG cylinders, a group of students from Akshara Matriculation Higher Secondary School have designed and developed a product that could bring down cooking fuel consumption considerably.

The team, led by S. Gautam Paramasivam, won laurels at the district-level and state-level Children’s Science Congress for their project, the ‘hay box’. They also won a place under Senior English category in the National Children’s Science Congress to be held at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, between December 27 and 31.

Other members of the team are M. Uma Maheswari, R. Fathima Bi, V. Parthiban and M. Balaji. The hay box is nothing but a carton with hay neatly arranged inside and sealed with a pillow stuffed with hay. The product is designed for the category ‘Energy Exploration and Conservation’.

“It is time and cost efficient and more importantly fuel efficient,” says Asha Kannan, students’ guide for the project.

When the district unit of the Tamil Nadu Science Forum called for innovative science projects in this category, students conducted a survey about the cooking devices people use. “Our focus mainly is to analyse which of the cooking devices is cost, time and fuel efficient,” she says.

The team covered three energy sources – fossil fuel, electrical energy and solar energy – and studied kerosene stove, LPG stove, firewood and sawdust chulhas, induction stove, electric rice cooker and solar cooker.

“At the end, we were a little disappointed to note that there was not much difference in time taken to cook rice. Though solar energy is abundant in nature, the panels are very expensive,” says Asha.

After numerous deliberations and meetings with end users, the team decided to concentrate on developing an additional cooking device that could conserve fuel. “Finally, it led us to this hay box, which can be a good value addition to the kitchen,” says Gautam Paramasivam.

Cooking rice the traditional way on LPG stove takes around 40 minutes. But with the use of hay box the time taken is cut down by 50 per cent. “We are not talking about pressure cooker, as it has its own advantages and disadvantages,” says Asha. “We boiled water in a vessel and added rice. After a few minutes, we removed the vessel from the stove and kept it inside the hay box and sealed it with the pillow stuffed with hay. It took 20 minutes for the rice to get cooked,” she explains.

Hay has cellulose fibre, which retains heat. As no air goes out of the box, the temperature stays high and the rice cooks more quickly. “It can also be used as a hot pack,” says Fathima Bi.

The team also tried the same experiment with coir, corn stem and sugarcane bagasse but found hay affordable and easy to maintain.

Theirs was one of 30 projects, out of the 280 at the State science congress, that qualified for the national meet.

The 20 best student projects will be compiled in a book.

The young scientists are now hoping to make a mark at the National Children’s Science Congress.

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