CSIR – National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST)

Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Govt.Of India Thiruvananthapuram.

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Present and Future

 

During the three decades of its existence, the laboratory has witnessed phenomenal growth with addition of state-of-art infrastructure, technological up- gradation of the R&D facilities coupled with quantum jump in the output. In a recent analysis by CSIR-NISCAIR, the Institute achieved the second position among the CSIR labs in terms of number of high impact factor publications (890 numbers with average IF more than two per paper), 79 US patents filed and more than Rs 48 crores received as ECF, during 2004-2008. In addition, a major technology for the commercialization of a new process for the production of synthetic rutile from ilmenite was handed over to Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL) in January 2008.

 

The laboratory at present has a sanctioned strength of 62 scientists, 65 technical and 54 administrative staff. About 150 JRF/SRF are pursuing their doctoral work and an equal number of project assistants are involved in contract research activities. The Institute receives about Rs.25 crores of budgetary support per annum.

 Untitled2The approach & strategy of the Institute for the XII Five Year Plan is to maximize the expertise acquired during the XI Five Year Plan and involve in projects that are highly relevant to the country and scientifically challenging. In addition, emphasis will be given improve the interdisciplinary cross-linking between divisions by developing programs in the interface between chemistry and biology as well as chemistry and engineering. The strategy would be to network within the institute/CSIR to pool-up and complement the expertise available.

 

A major program initiated in the Institute is in the area of solar energy conversion, which includes work on dye-sensitized as well as organic and organic/inorganic hybrid solar cells. During the next five years it is envisaged to play a major role in the CSIR mega project entitled ‘TAP-SUN’, which aims to focus and direct the efforts the highly skilled scientific work force of CSIR towards finding better, efficient and economic solutions to solar energy conversion, storage and conservation. The institute is also coordinating a multi-institute Indian research team to work in collaboration with a corresponding European team on an Indo-EU project on organic inorganic solar cells funded under the framework of India-European Union S&T Cooperation agreement.

 

As part of the CSIR Chemistry Cluster Program on Materials to Devices (M2D) the institute plans to initiate a major program on molecular diagnostics for implementation in the 12th five year plan. This flagship program will endeavour to develop fluorescent and electrochemical biosensors for diagnostics and preventive health care applications in partnership with various CSIR Institutes and Chemical & Pharmaceutical Industries.

 

Nanotechnology holds the potential of providing a multitude of health, industrial and environmental benefits. However, it is still an emerging field and there is a dearth of information about how nanoscale particles and devices might adversely affect human health, safety, and the environment. There is considerable requirement of nano materials such as nano titanium oxide as photoactive catalysts, nano rare earth oxides for polishing of fine surfaces of glass and electronic circuit boards and nano ZnO for a wide variety of applications. The institute will be participating in a net work programme on preparation of nanoparticles for applications in drug delivery systems that provide real-time assessments of therapeutic and surgical efficacy, multifunctional, targeted devices capable of bypassing biological barriers to deliver therapeutic agents at high local concentrations directly to cancer cells and tissues.

 

An ominous but avoidable resource crunch in the so-called “Rare Earths” [RE] is now threatening the development of key industries from energy to defense to consumer electronics. As key components in the latest generation of technologies, including specialized magnets for windmills and hybrid cars, lasers range of finders and “smart” munitions, and phosphors for LCD screens, environmentally benign pigments, high temperature composites, and high performance alloys, demand for these rare earths are expected to grow rapidly in the years to come. But decades of underinvestment in the mining and separation of rare earths across the globe has left the rare earth industry ill-prepared to fulfill this growing demand. NIIST will be coordinating a major CSIR-network programme on rare earths in close collaboration with the relevant industries during the next five year plan.

 

Agro processing is a sun rise sector of our country and post harvest losses are the major threat to food security. Post harvest technologies related to value added products, agro products storage, extended shelf life of processed foods, marketability of the products, special products with functionality and health benefits are the areas of interest in line with the nation’s requirement. Bio processing using enzymes is fast emerging as a viable alternative to conventional processing. The major barrier for Super Critical Fluid Extractions [SCFE] is the resistance offered by the cell wall. It is envisaged to break the cell wall using combination of enzymes either produced in situ or added externally followed by the SCFE process for the recovery of active ingredients. Such a strategy is expected to reduce the mass transfer resistances. Amalgamation of the Enzymatic & SCFE processes will lead to the production of active ingredients from organically cultivated raw material without use of any chemicals.

 

The ‘Western Ghats’ is rich in bio diversity and many of the medicinal and herbal plants have been traditionally used in ayurveda and herbal products. There are still vast amount of bio resources which are unexploited. Chemical marker identification and bio evaluation of the active fractions are essential to scientifically validate the health benefits of herbal products. The global market for plant-derived drugs was worth an estimated $18 billion in 2005. BCC expects this figure to grow to nearly more than $26 billion by 2011. NIIST will be working on a programme in this area in collaboration with IICT-Hyderabad and NEIST-Jorhat.

 

In the area of Biotechnology, the main focus would be on R&D activities related to conversion of biomass to energy or to valuable chemicals.

 

Technologies often remain on the shelf because of lack of effective delivery mechanisms. The strategies for effective delivery would vary from technology to technology and the scientist is very rarely cognizant of all the dimensions of establishing a sustainable business using the technology. This is even truer for delivery of technologies for the micro-sector where the entrepreneurs come from low income, less educated backgrounds. Micro scale enterprises are the second largest employment providers to the Indian workforce, next to agriculture. CSIR-800 Mission seeks to improve the quality of life of 800 million Indians at the bottom of the quality-of-life-pyramid by enhancing their income generating capability, as well as providing solutions in the areas of agriculture, environment, water, nutrition, energy etc. We have identified a basket of technologies and ideas that have the potential for setting up micro-enterprises that can be managed by self-help groups or small entrepreneurs. All these technologies are also identified as “green” because they are beneficial to the environment even as they create livelihoods. The programme puts high emphasis on delivery of these technologies in a way that supports adaptation by low income, less techno-educated sections of society for developing sustainable livelihoods. The methodology of delivery needs to cover multidimensional aspects including the technology training, management, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

 

The results of these efforts are expected to contribute towards achieving self-reliance in the areas related to sustainable energy, affordable healthcare and strategic materials. In addition, these efforts will also result in knowledge generation, publications in high impact journals and human resource development areas of vital importance to the Country.