Chemistry's applications are ubiquitous. In India, a prominent organisation that promotes research in chemistry is the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune.

The gifts of chemistry are a boon to mankind. Its applications in home and industry are many. Right from purified drinking water to motor car and cane sugar to mobile phone, all these have been made possible only through processes in chemistry at some stage or other of its production.

New discoveries, processes, and products are an integral part of this fascinating discipline. It offers a fertile ground for those endowed with intellectual curiosity and a passion for scientific research. Studies in chemistry cannot be totally independent. It has to be interdisciplinary with inputs from sister disciplines as well.

A prominent organisation that promotes research in chemistry in India is the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune (Dr. Homi Bhabha Road, Pune – 411 008, Web: www.ncl-india.org).

The NCL, which was established in 1950, is an interdisciplinary research centre with interest in polymer science, organic chemistry, catalysis, materials chemistry, industrial chemistry, chemical engineering, biochemical sciences, and process development. It has a rich infrastructure for in-depth studies and research in these branches. The NCL, a unit of CSIR, has a fine record in the matter of research papers, Ph.D.s, and patents. They reach global markets. The key areas of knowledge competency at the NCL include the following.

Catalytic reactors and separation

Chemical biology and biomimetic chemistry (mimicking natural chemical

processes).

Chemical engineering science.

Complex fluids and polymer engineering.

Enzymology and microbiology.

Homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis,

Industrial flow modelling.

Materials chemistry.

Nanomaterials science and technology.

Organic chemistry.

Plant biochemistry and molecular biology.

Plant tissue culture.

Polymer chemistry and materials.

Process design and development.

The main activities of the institution can be classified as follows.

Catalysis — heterogeneous and homogeneous.

Polymer science and engineering: polymer chemistry; polymer physics; complex fluids and polymer engineering; polymer and materials modelling; and membrane science and technology.

Biochemical sciences: industrial microbiology; plant molecular biology; and plant tissue culture.

Physical and materials chemistry: Nanomaterials science and technology; materials chemistry; and theory and computational science.

Organic chemistry: Chiral synthesis (relating to a molecule that is not superimposable on its mirror image); new synthetic methods; process chemistry for active pharmaceutical intermediates; multi-step organic synthesis of complex organic molecules; bio-organic and bio-mimetic chemistry; and molecular diversity-based chemical genetics

Chemical engineering science: reaction engineering; process simulation and modelling; biochemical engineering; industrial flow modelling; process design and development of processes for fine chemicals and polymers.

The style of functioning in NCL can be summarised as follows.

Exploratory research and science: This is a necessary precursor to applied research. It is usually performed through research scholars engaged in studies for a Ph.D. The output will be in the form of student dissertations or research publications. The explorative exercises result in an improved understanding of chemicals, materials, organisms, phenomena, and techniques that can be used in applied research. Also, they build and develop competencies and skills.

Applied research and technology: This basically involves R&D directed towards developing a process, material, or product that can deliver potential benefits to industry. The efforts are usually market-driven. The participants may be drawn from staff or research scholars. The funding will be usually from the stakeholder industries. The output will be in the form of proprietary technology, patents, or specialised software. These outcomes may include processes, materials, and products that are potential wealth creators.

Consultancy and scientific services: These are mostly funded by industries. The services include feasibility studies, technology assessment, analysis for policy, information monitoring, and so on. The outcomes comprise solved problems, improvements in the processes, materials and products, decisions on investment, and R&D strategy.

Housing and maintaining national resource centres: NCL functions as a national resource centre for the chemical and allied sciences. It has a rich infrastructure, including expert services, instrument facilities, and information resources. These are made available for outside establishments also.

Education, training, dissemination, and popularisation: NCL trains a large number of Ph.D.s in the chemical and allied disciplines. It offers facilities for project work of B.Tech. and M.Sc. students and for continuing education programmes of the industry. The NCL receives contributions for holding professional seminars and conferences benefiting education and industry. Dissemination of specialised scientific information for the benefit of the general public is also on its agenda.

Contribution to the scientific professions: NCL makes a substantial contribution to dissemination of information to the scientific community through publications, conferences, and association with scientific bodies. It is obvious that NCL does not limit its activities to pure academic exercises in research. It has a special focus on serving the industry and the public in general. It takes special care to fulfil the demands of the stakeholders, in tune with their expectations. Aspirants of research get ample opportunities in their pursuit of excellence in this prestigious institution that takes special care in maintaining a congenial ambience and environment for committed studies and research.