More to ‘solar’ than scams

15-year-old Deepika Kurup developed a water purification model which works on solar energy. The effort won her the title America's Top Young Scientist.

August 28, 2013 04:29 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 09:17 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:

ROLE MODEL: Young scientist Deepika Kurup interacting with students of St. Marys Central School, Poojappura, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. Photo:S.Mahinsha

ROLE MODEL: Young scientist Deepika Kurup interacting with students of St. Marys Central School, Poojappura, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. Photo:S.Mahinsha

While the State frets and fumes over the solar scam, 15 year-old Deepika Kurup wonders how a natural resource could be a subject for scandal, when it could be used to benefit people.

After all, it was the proper channelling of solar power that fetched her the title of America’s Top Young Scientist. Deepika’s prototype of a water purification system helped her win the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, 2012. She used solar power to disinfect contaminated water.

The young scientist was in the city on Tuesday. Though born and brought up at Nashua in the United States, Deepika often visits India, and Thiruvananthapuram, her parents’ hometown, is very close to her heart.

Trigger in Chennai

It was during a visit to Chennai that the necessity of water purification in developing countries dawned on her. In Chennai, she saw the dearth of drinking water everywhere. This prompted Deepika, a high school student of Nashua High School South in Massachusetts, to work on the project.

“I started working on prototypes because many in the developing world have no access to clean drinking water,” says the scientist who met U.S. President Barack Obama and discussed with him her plans.

She plans to deploy her project in places where water shortage is acute. The patent for the project is pending.

Banishing bacteria

Her work is a photo-catalytic composite made up of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, hollow glass microspheres, and Portland cement, which act as the water purifier. This composite helps bring coliform and aerobic bacterial colonies under the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) limits (EPA sets limit on the amount of toxic contaminants in drinking water).

In addition, it oxidises methylene blue (photo degradation indicator dye) at a faster rate than other solar disinfection methods.

She has also developed a photo catalytic rod, panel, and a model water tank that works on the above principles. “I will do research in the U.S. as I am more familiar with the working model in those laboratories. But I want to implement my project in countries such as India, which is facing drinking water crisis,” says Deepika.

Many talents

She has a black belt in karate and is a member of the Julian C. Stanely Study of Exceptional Talents. She was also invited to 2013 White House Science Fair to exhibit her project.

During her interaction with the students of the St. Mary’s Residential Central School, Poojapura, on Tuesday, she said students focussed on pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers should steer their careers to innovative paths.

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