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IIT-M to develop tech to upcycle paddy waste for making supercapacitors

The technology will provide an additional source of income to farmers, help reduce stubble burning in North India

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BS Reporter Chennai

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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) are working on eco-friendly technology to upcycle paddy waste to manufacture raw materials for industrial applications.

The technology will provide an additional source of income to farmers as paddy waste can be used to produce energy devices that can be used by the industry. This approach can make a key contribution to reducing stubble burning and burning of other farm waste in North India.

The researchers are fostering a new ‘farm-energy synergy’ through their work with organic waste, particularly kitchen waste, to develop usable activated carbon, a key component in making supercapacitors. Supercapacitors made from activated carbon produced from paddy waste, offer many benefits to consumers across the electronics, energy, and agricultural sectors and can help develop self-reliance in the supercapacitors field. Self-reliance concerning supercapacitors and supercapacitor-based energy storage technology will enhance IP Generation and employment within the country.

Currently, the quantum of paddy waste generated is 76 million metric tonnes a year in India. Farmers consider burning straw as the most low-cost and efficient alternative to tailing the straw into the soil. This causes substantial pollution and severe ecological problems. Besides, burning reduces the potential utilisation of biomass. The estimated loss for India alone is about Rs 92, 600 crore.

IIT Madras researchers have already demonstrated the conversion of bio-waste into biomass (such as vegetable waste) to activated carbon and have used it to make supercapacitor electrode material. The technology can be adapted to render paddy waste valid for activated carbon production. The future plan is to use the approach being followed to make activated carbon and explore scales of production.

Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, said, “Agriculture still continues to be at the heart of India’s economy. This breakthrough technology that converts biomass such as paddy waste into activated carbon, will have a significant bearing on our health, environment and the economy.”

Explaining the key benefits of this technology, Tiju Thomas, Associate Professor, Department of Metallurgical and Materials, IIT Madras, said, “The solution that we are identifying is a well-defined process. It will allow for conversion of paddy waste of the country to commercial standard carbon material and the use of the activated carbon to fabricate supercapacitors that comply with the market standard. The material will be implemented in the form of a suitable supercapacitor-based hybrid energy storage device.”

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First Published: Mar 29 2023 | 3:24 PM IST

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