Wednesday, 20 November 2013

From Monk to an Innovator

Agriculture is the basic foundation of Human civilization.A primarily agrarian society necessitated invention of various devices that could till large portions of land with minimal efforts. From Henry Blair to Henry ford, many have created super-efficient harvesting machines but the flip side is that all these machines consume huge amount of power. These machines are extremely energy inefficient and hence expensive and not eco-friendly. Thumswamy Joseph David (TJ David)worked on overcoming these inefficiencies and developed a solar powered robotic harvester by redefining the application of Physics and Mechanics.
TJ David,although a school dropout is gifted with an exceptional scientific temperament. Hailing from southern India and born in not so well-to-do family, David had to work to support his family as soon as he hit his teens. David remembers, “My father passed away when I was very young and I had to quit school to support my family.  One day, I saw a sage who was teaching his disciples about atoms in a very religious way and I decided to become his follower. But becoming a yogi was not my karma, I had to do something for the mankind”. David adds “I was always curious about things and how they work and why they work? Since not much information was available around, I would resort to books and teachers but often my teachers drove me away as they themselves didn’t had the answers”.
In an attempt to satiate the never ending zest for finding answers and solutions, David landed at the IIT Delhi campus with Prof. S Swaminathan who not only taught him fundamentals of Mechanical engineering but also played the pivotal role of a mentor.  David’s interest in various forms of energy motivated him to study and understand how the Sun’s energy can be tapped and harnessed.
Not being a conventional student also allowed David to focus on projects that addressed prevalent problems and the break-through outcome of this approach was a unique Robotic Solar Power Harvester that he developed along with his team.In addition to solar power the harvester can be run using grid power and can even be operated remotely using a mobile phone. David says “When we initially presented our solar power harvester concept, people were smug enough to decline the plausible usage but when we actually demonstrated a working model they had to retract their own words and take notice of our work”. David further adds, “Heavy machine like Tractors and harvesters need more power to run themselves than the work they do.All harvesters presently available globally are diesel engine based and are extremely energy inefficient with efficiency levels as low as 15%.Moreover, in case of conventional harvesters, the vehicle engine provides drive to all the attachments which results in power loss, as the engine is continuously running to power one or more components. Hence we decided to completely restructure the basic assembly to achieve energy efficiency. After extensively studying‘Traction Rolling Friction’ principle,we have now developed a highly efficient motor and power transmission system which has successfully help ed reduce energy consumption by 20-30 times as compared to conventional engine. As a result our harvester consumes only 3.0 KW power per acre and harvesting can be completed in just 2 hours. Moreover, as this harvester can completely work on solar energy, the dependency on fossil fuel is completely eliminated”.
After working as a consultant for over 40 companies and travelling across the country handling heavy machinery, David can claim to be a “self-taught” mechanical engineer. He is also the winner of the prestigious ‘Ashoka Fellowship’and ‘Lockheed-Martin India Innovation award’.
Presently, David is working with The Engineering Technology and Innovation Centre (ENTICE) of the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad and is in-charge of developing necessity-based mass impact technologies.He has more than 20 low-cost inventions to his credit which include an animal-powered transmission system, a poultry care system, a pump less cooler, etc.   With support from IIT Hyderabad’s ENTICE,Davidhas patented his innovations in over 40 countries.
Recently, David has also received an offer to collaborate with Lockheed-Martin Inc. “They have the best technology for cold-storage and photo voltaic cells while we have the most efficient solar-powered engines. If the two get combined, I am confident that we can develop five to six-seater solar energy based passenger planes against the one-seater presently developed by them” says David.
For some time, David has been busy tackling another social problem in AndraPradesh. He says “The stone tile processing industry in Tandur is suffering from acute grid power shortage. It results in low productivity, loss of business and affects livelihoods for over three lakh people. Now, we have collaborated with Green Urja firm; and are able to save around 8.5 megawatt of power and Rs 22 crore per annum.”

David’s ultimate dream however is to start a research institute for “Innovative minds” where the focus will not be on academic excellence but on innovations that solve real life basic problems through technology. His journey from being a monk to a scientist and then an innovator is surely inspirational.

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