A lot of noise has been created about waste generation and management – numerous campaigns, volunteering and even our very own Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. These efforts focus about the waste generated on land. But what happens to the waste generated on air? Two alumni from the Indian Institute of Science, Mohit Gupta and Darshan Seshagiri along with Aarohi Bhavinbhai Shah, all currently studying at Georgia Tech, have thought of an excellent way to do this. This innovation helped them win the prestigious Innovation Showdown 2016 title.
Innovation Showdown is a long-running reputed competition organized by Airbus Americas. Among more than 300 highly qualified teams from different US universities, only five teams with the most impressive technical ideas with practical business plans were declared finalists for the competition. The finalists had to work through three rounds – Brainstorming, Feasibility and Business Case, for their respective ideas. Esteemed Airbus and Delta personnel from Mobile, Alabama and Hamburg, Germany judged these rounds. This competition has brought out great ideas in the past, some of which are in the process of implementation.
“Waste management is something which has been overlooked by the aviation industry. According to an article by New York Times in 2010, all the waste generated onboard goes straight to landfills. They pay about $241 per tonne to dispose off the waste along with a tipping fee of $16 per tonne. A tonne of waste is equal to the waste generated by 3 long haul flight segments”, says Prof. Dineshkumar Harursampath, one of the mentors to the team. The professor takes pride in the fact that two of the team members are alumni of his lab at the Department of Aerospace Engineering.
The student team leader, Mohit Gupta, has repeatedly motivated the team with his strong conviction. He says, “Innovation is newness from within. We change our minds, our thought process. In short, we try to be new, and we innovate inside to innovate outside.” Darshan Sheshagiri credited the team’s capabilities to the highly challenging environment-conscious technological innovations in the aerospace arena that NMCAD Lab at IISc focuses on. Along with her technical skills, Aarohi Shah’s internship experience in journalism also came in handy for the presentations.
Their idea uses the well-established method of waste gasification, which breaks down the solid waste into small chunks that eases waste transportation and disposal. This method involves a gasification plant that has to be installed overboard. All the solid waste that is collected in the aircraft is dumped into this plant, which breaks it down and decomposes the waste. Combustible gases obtained from this process are burned in a chamber whose outlet has a filter and finally expelled into the atmosphere. The pressure at that height would be so low that these gases would be automatically sucked out from the outlet valve.
The team, while brainstorming, compares this idea to the human digestive system, where the intestines assimilate the energy from food before throwing out waste in solid and gaseous form. “Similarly, we are trying to employ a gasification system onboard which will take in organic waste and harness energy from it. In addition to the economical savings, it adds value to the aircraft by reducing the aviation ecological footprint and bringing it closer to nature,” signs off the team.
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