Murugappa Polytechnic College today opened a Centre for Sustainability and Energy Transition at its campus at Avadi, Chennai. The Centre hosts a ‘cold room’ which maintains cold temperature at all times in an enclosed space, using innovative ‘phase change materials’. Such ‘cold rooms’ do not need grid-connected electricity and are being built at farms to store agricultural produce, thereby reduce spoilage, and improve farm output and incomes. In addition to the ‘cold room’ the centre also hosts a ‘dryer’ which also uses the ‘phase change materials’ to maintain a constant, continuous temperature for drying, without electricity. Such dryers are being used to dry agricultural produce, such as pineapple, copra, okra, moringa etc, which fetch a higher price in the market.
The Centre was inaugurated by Professor V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras. Senior officials from Indian and international firms in agricultural commerce, logistics and financial services, like Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Apollo Supply Chain, Samunnati and Carbon Impact Capital among others, also attended the inauguration.
‘Phase change materials’ are substances which store energy. An example of such a material is water, which changes phase from liquid to solid at 0°C. When solidified water is put in a glass at room temperature, it absorbs heat and changes its phase again while cooling the glass. This phenomenon is repeatable over a substantial number of cycles, and can be used to maintain a constant temperature without the need for constant electricity.
According to a World Economic Forum white paper, ‘Mission 2070 – A Green New Deal for a Net Zero India’, green energy can serve as a catalyst for new industries, and represents the single biggest economic opportunity for India. The Centre for Sustainability and Energy Transition at Murugappa Polytechnic has been set up by AMM Foundation and Pluss Advanced Technologies, with the objective of promoting technical skills among students and working professionals to address issues related to access to energy in key sectors like agriculture, cold chain logistics and healthcare, where grid-connectivity is not always feasible. The Centre will also serve as a demonstration centre for industry developments in energy efficient, environmentally sustainable buildings.
In ‘cold rooms’ temperature is maintained at 2 to 8 degree Celsius or minus 20 to minus 15 degree Celsius, in an enclosed space for storing agricultural produce. The ‘cold rooms’ are solar powered and use ‘phase change materials’ as ‘thermal batteries’ to provide 24×7 temperature control. Unlike generally available batteries like Lead Acid, and Lithium Ion, ‘thermal batteries’ are affordable and reliable, and are easy to use in places where there is no grid electricity.
The Centre will also create entrepreneurship templates to promote setting up of small business units. This would include tie-ups with banks and investors for unlocking capital, building market linkages, and matching business mentors to the students.
Dr K Sudhagar, Principal, Murugappa Polytechnic College said, “We have a tradition of creating curriculum, facilities and teaching methodologies that encourage our students to build innovative solutions from current technologies. The Centre for Sustainability and Energy Transition takes it a step further by offering students hands-on learning on technologies for energy recycling and reuse, that offer economic benefits to farming and business communities. It also offers opportunities for entrepreneurship through applications of these technologies in their communities.”
Samit Jain, Managing Director, Pluss Advanced Technologies said, “We are delighted to partner with Murugappa Polytechnic to set up the Centre for Sustainability and Energy Transition. These technologies are being adopted across the world, especially in Europe, to maintain a constant temperature without electricity. The Centre will give the students an opportunity to be at the forefront of deployment of these technologies in India.”