Tiruchi professor wins international award for innovative research on water conservation

A file photo of S. Senthi Kumar making a demonstration.  

A botany professor from National College in Tiruchi has been awarded the ‘Best Solution Award’ at World Water Challenge 2020, a competition organised by the Ministry of Environment, South Korea, and Korean Water Forum.

S. Senthil Kumar, Assistant Professor, worked on his project ‘Extraction of water from air’ for four years before presenting it at the competition. The idea of harnessing water from air-conditioners came to Mr. Senthil Kumar when he observed the water let out from a unit at the botany laboratory in his college.

With water crisis becoming a regular problem due to failure of monsoons and with increasing demand as population is on the rise, a viable solution had to be found. “Water is not an unlimited resource. Our only way of conserving it is using it wisely and reusing it. Reseach over many years has showed that moisture in the air is a big source of water,” Mr. Senthil Kumar said.

Although conversion of water from moisture is well-known, it is too expensive to harness. “There are several expensive air-water extractors in the market, but they consume a large amount of electricity, which is also loss of energy. An air-conditioner essentially does the same thing, except the water is let out as a waste. This water can be harnessed, purified and consumed,” he said.

Climate change and increasing heat and humidity have led to increase in sale of air-conditioners. The water can be harnessed at individual homes using their own air-conditioners.

To prove his theory, he first set up a collection unit for the air-conditioner at his botany lab, where he found that 12 litres of water were being wasted per day. “If one individual consumes three litres of water in a day, we can collect water for four people per day, with just one small one-tonne AC,” he said.

To further his research Mr. Senthil Kumar applied to the Department of Science and Technology for a grant. With the funds, he took the help of students and studied large corporate offices. “At a corporate office in Ambattur, Chennai, where a 16-tonne AC runs for at least 10 hours a day, 120 litres of water were collected per day. The office’s drinking water requirement is 80-100 litres, which means it could fulfil their water needs with 20 litres to spare,” he said.

The collected water is distilled, but can be processed to be converted to clean, drinking water.

Mr. Senthil Kumar's research was one of the 86 applications submitted from 32 countries across the world. The final round involved nine participants and was evaluated by a committee. On winning the award, he was presented with ₹6.9 lakh and an opportunity to present his work at World Water Forum in South Africa.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 11:13:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/tiruchi-professor-wins-international-award-for-innovative-research-on-water-conservation/article33179930.ece

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