The light of knowledge

At Tripura, Meghnath meets Sukracharya and dives straight into learning. His first lesson: about electrolysis.

Published - September 18, 2021 07:42 pm IST

Illustration: Sahil Upalekar

Illustration: Sahil Upalekar

Vaihasaya slowly landed in Tripura on top of a beautifully built palace. The whole city was lit up with electric lights. Meghnath was amazed by this technology.

Below each light was a huge clay pot with copper rods and zinc/iron in the middle. Another thin rod made of tungsten was connected to it with a wire. Looking at these, Meghnath thought the clay pots were similar to what the sages carried. But there was a difference.

As he stepped in, he saw a huge flag pole, below which was another huge clay pot with a similar setup. On top of the pole , he saw a small spark of light.

Longed-for meeting

Meghnath looked at Mayasura and Ravana. The former said, “Ask Sukracharya when you meet him.” They stepped inside the guru’s building and there sat Sukracharya, with a clay pot in his left hand and a lengthy metal rod with its top part split into two (like an antenna), in his right.

Sukracharya: Welcome to Tripura. Looks like Meghanth has many questions. Go ahead, child. Clarify your doubts.

Meghanth: Thank you, guru. Outside, I saw the light, which seems to be different and artificially created. How it is possible? What is this mysterious clay pot that is everywhere?

Sukracharya: The pot is a battery to store electricity. To understand that idea, you must first know about a process called electrolysis. First, tell me what is electricity?

Meghanth: Not sure. All I know is lighting, which we see during rain and thunder, is a form of current or electricity, which is basically “flow of electrons”.

Sukracharya : Perfect… If you can understand flow of electrons and how they exchange among each element or electricity, light, telecommunication concept. To learn this, let me teach you how to separate water. What is water?

Meghnath: It is one part of Pranavayu (Oxygen) and two parts of Udajani (Hydrogen).

Sukracharya: Do you know how to separate them?

Meghnath: No.

Sukracharya: Take some water, salt and take a non-conductive bowl (clay pot, glass bowl, etc). For learning, let’s take a ready-made battery.

When they put salt inside the water and send electricity inside, Meghnath sees bubbles coming out of the negative and positive terminals; with more in the former and less in the latter.

Creating a spark

Meghnath: Hydrogen is coming out from the negative side, and oxygen from the positive side. But, what’s happening?

Sukracharya: This process is called electrolysis; by which a compound/substance like water decomposes or breaks down into simpler substances when current is passed into them. But, for this to happen, there must be some substance which supply ions, which we call it as electrolyte. Here, we use salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride) as electrolyte.

Meghnath: Guru, I want to learn how to create current and create a spark of light…

Sukracharya: This is just the start. More will follow

Meghanth begins to try different methods to store separated oxygen and hydrogen in a metal container, as Sukracharya watches with a smile.

The author is the founder and CEO of Vaayusastra Aerospace, an IIT-Madras incubated ed-tech startup that offers Air Science workshops for children between five and 14 years

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