CSIR-NCL Celebrates 70th Foundation Day

Prof. Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-NCL, felicitating Prof. Pandit


CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune, celebrated its 70th Foundation Day on 6 January 2020. On the occasion, Prof. A.B. Pandit, Vice-Chancellor, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, delivered the CSIR-NCL Foundation Day Lecture on a topic titled “Role of Chemical Engineering in Nation Building”. 

Prof. A.B. Pandit talked about a general impression in public that, “Chemical industry is responsible for the environmental degradation, a general reduction in the quality of our life; on the other hand they do not talk about the contributions of the chemical industry to the improvement in the quality of life.” 

The general perception of society is that it is responsible for the emission of carbon dioxide and toxic gases, generating plastic waste. Rather, chemical science has contributed to the development of medicines, biomaterials, implants, food processing, 3D printing, and water & wastewater treatment. Prof. Pandit highlighted the typical achievements of the chemical industry in urban areas. He mentioned the industry sectors including petroleum refineries, plastic, synthetic fibres, synthetic rubber, memory chips and solar panels, energy and fuel cells, etc. 

There is a role to play for a chemical engineer in each of these applications. For the rural areas, it has contributed to the development of fertilizers and pesticides, improved crop varieties in collaboration with agricultural institutes and universities, preservation of food and continuous processing of the food.

He focused on the approaches that a chemical engineer should take so that his knowledge in the chemical engineering and sciences is brought to the benefit of the masses not limiting benefits to the industry alone. His talk included several of the case studies taken out of his research works. 

“In the first agricultural revolution, India made tremendous progress and made itself self-sufficient in terms of food; but lost out on a big way in the second agricultural revolution because of poor food processing techniques. Now is the time for the chemical engineers to contribute because all food processing operations involve chemistry and chemical engineering in terms of preservation or new product development. Here is a big opportunity to collaborate with the food scientists and food chemists and engineers to develop new products and processes especially in the field of food processing,” he said. Other achievements in rural areas include jaggery production, sugar mill, biogas, alcohol production, compost making and drinking water purification.

Many social, rural, national issues can find quantitative and timely solutions if these are approached using chemical engineering principles. An institute is responsible for addressing issues of chemical sciences, engineering, biology, etc. in nation-building by contributing to the identified areas such as Health, Soil Productivity, Crop/Fruit storage, Agro-waste utilisation, water cleaning, energy efficiency, waste management, etc.

Prof. Pandit stressed on the possible opportunities for youngsters in the field. He talked about rural applications that included solid fuel burning stoves, cooking devices and solar dryers, cavitating hand-pump for safe drinking water. He said that, “As an engineer, at every stage, you must calculate to find out that the choices that you are making are indeed going to be affordable.” 

Prof. Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-NCL in his welcome remarks spoke on technologies developed and also projects implemented over the last four years. Prof. Nangia reaffirmed the commitment of CSIR-NCL to the Dehradun Declaration and thanked the scientists for contributing towards national goals in Mission, FTT FTC projects. 

The NCL Research Foundation Annual Awards were also given away to deserving scientists and staff at the hands of the chief guest. NCL RF Scientist of the Year Award sponsored by Maneckji and Shirinbai Neterwala Foundation was given to Dr Kumar Vanka for his research focused on employing computational methods such as density functional theory and ab initio molecular dynamics and NCL RF Scientist of the Year Award sponsored by Dr R.A. Mashelkar, Endowment Fund was given to Dr Benudhar Punji for his significant contributions in the development of unified strategies for the nickel-catalyzed C-H bond alkylation, arylation, benzylation, alkenylation and alkynylation of indoles.

NCL RF Technology of the Year Award was given in combination to two teams including Dr T. Raja, Dr C.S. Gopinath and Dr Sanjay Kamble, Dr C. V. Rode and Dr Sunil Bhongale. Many other awards were also presented to deserving staff members.