Necessity has been the mother of invention for K. Akhtar Ali, a tyre mechanic, who dabbles in innovative engineering projects in his spare time.
Already known for his unique creations like his anti-puncture powder that has a substantial customer base, an anti-theft device for two-wheelers and at least five other gadgets, Mr. Ali, who is in his late fifties, has come up with yet another invention that promises to be a thrifty and natural air-conditioner.
Known as the ‘AC-EC’, Ali’s machine uses a bubble water can that has been cut at the top to accommodate a bamboo basket holding a small bunch of vetiver grass ( chrysopogon zizanioides ). The base of the can is filled with around 12 litres of water, and is lined with a layer of pebbles. A terracotta pot is placed inside the water. “These are the most natural ways to cool down water,” explains Mr. Ali, who has a working sample at his modest workshop in RS Complex on No.1 Toll Gate, Lalgudi Road.
Using a simple motor, water is piped from smaller bottles secured on the walls into taps to water the grass in the bamboo basket and sent back to the big can. The resulting cool and lightly scented air is circulated in the room with the help of a ceiling fan. Two to three litres of water are enough to cool a small room on a very hot day, especially if the fan is kept close to the can, says Mr. Ali.
Costing around ₹1,500 to assemble, Mr. Ali said he was moved to design the cooler when his wife was advised to take rest in an air-conditioned room after a major surgery last year. “I couldn’t afford to buy an air-conditioner, so I thought this would be a better solution,” Mr. Ali told The Hindu . He has also attached his machine to a branded air cooler in the local mosque to ventilate the prayer hall, and has undertaken at least more 10 orders.
Just like the simple anti-puncture powder (finely ground rubber), that users say prolongs the life of their tyres by several years, the AC-EC device shows an originality and deep understanding of engineering and core science, which belies the fact that Mr. Ali was deprived early of education.
“After my father, a tyre mechanic died, I dropped out of school and started working as a cycle shop assistant from the age of 9,” said Mr. Ali. “I did many odd jobs in my native village of Santhukadai until I shifted to Lalgudi Road and started my own tyre shop in 1980.” A familiar face on local TV due to his inventive streak, Mr. Ali says he hopes to find a way to recycle domestic grey water for potable usage next. “But I find it difficult to balance my experiments with my responsibilities as a family man,” he said with a smile.
Mr. Ali’s AC-EC and an energy-efficient cooking process concept have been accepted as entries to the 11th National Biennial Competition hosted by the Gujarat-based National Innovation Foundation – India, results of which will be announced in 2019.