Robot, car, heater. solar quest turns students into inventors

Chetan Chauhan

New Delhi, Oct. 24 -- A solar car with a top speed of 120 km per hour, a solar-powered robot and low-cost solar heating systems are some inventions of Indian engineering students that have drawn applause from places across the world. The government is investing a lot of money in research and development of new solar technologies to do its bit in the world's fastest growing sector - renewable energy. India's renewable energy graph witnessed the fastest growth in 2011, and the government believes students can provide inventions capable of sustaining it.

A group of second-year students from the engineering department of the Delhi Technological University made a big breakthrough by indigenously developing a car with flexible solar panels installed on the roof. Flexible modules of mono-crystalline solar silicon cells enable the car to run up to 150 km before the batteries seek a full re-charge.

"It looks like any other car, but for the curved roof, which has inbuilt solar panels that charge the batteries during the day," said Dr Janardhan Prasad Kesari, whose students developed the car. The car is made of special-grade matt fibre in order to keep it lightweight, and improve performance. Recently, President Pranab Mukherjee had flagged off the car for an international seminar in South Africa.

No less enterprising have been the students of Mumbai-based Watumull College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Technology, who have developed a solar power robot that doubles up as a vacuum cleaner.

During the day, the robot is charged by solar power, and at night it uses the stored-up energy to carry out cleaning operations. It is fitted with a human occupancy sensor that detects human presence in a room and controls lighting and fans. "The robot is so small that it can fit in a small bag and carried anywhere," the college said.

Meanwhile, students of the Government Polytechnic in Miraj, Maharashtra, developed a solar water heater that costs just R400 - making such equipment within reach of rural people.

"We are increasing funds for research and development in the solar sector from R200 crore in the 11th Five Year Plan to R1,200 crore in the 12th Plan," said Gireesh Pradhan, secretary, ministry of new and renewable energy.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.