Research Programmes

Divisions and Ongoing Projects

Division: Climate Change Studies
Project: Terrestrial carbon dynamics of multiple land use in Kerala under global warming perspective

Thrust areas:

Expected outcome

The project aims to elucidate the carbon balance of different systems so as to formulate a state specific mitigation plan for land use activities and management giving emphasis on agriculture. Quantifying carbon accruals of these systems enables better estimates of their potential for carbon sequestration and subsequent trading in the coming future. The whole endeavor can contribute finally to the national green house gas accounting.
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Division: Waste Management Studies
Project: Establishment of a R&D cum demonstration unit for solid waste management

Thrust areas:

  1. Anaerobic digestion of organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) to obtain clean energy in the form of biogas rich in methane
  2. Composting and vermi-composting of the slurry ensuing from the anaerobic digesters into nutrient rich soil conditioners.

Expected Outcome

The proposal has research and development (R&D), training and extension components which ultimately result in to the development of trained human resource in solid waste management. This being an integrated approach focusing on decentralised waste management units shall be a viable option suitable at the rural and urban scenarios. Thus, the project is having a biotechnology based integrated waste management approach involving benefits of pollution control, bio-energy production and recovery of manure.Read More

Division: Pollution Studies and Management
Project: Soil and water pollution in the Cardamom and Tea estates of high-ranges and the health impacts

Thrust areas:

  • Analysis of soil and water quality parameters in the study area
  • Environmental impacts of insecticidal application on tea and cardamom estates.
  • Pesticide implication on humans (workers and inhabitants) in terms of health and well being.
  • Develop management strategies for sustainable cultivation practices for the study area.
  • Evolving out a model to trace and study the route and implication of selected chemicals on different environmental attributes.

Expected outcome Considering the increased use of pesticides in cardamom and tea plantation, the work is aimed to assess the soil and water quality, and the present study will be conducted to properly evaluate the health risk and environmental problems associated with its application in selected cardamom and tea plantations in Idukki district of Kerala. The study expects to evolve strategies for a healthy and sustainable environment in the high-range area.
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Division: Green Chemistry and Technology
Green technology is generally considered as a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products. Green technology is the main path to sustainability. Membrane (nanomembranes) based water purification is an emerging green technology and intensive research in this area is being carried out in ACESSD. Advanced Oxidation Processes is another technique for the degradation of organic water pollutants. The science division of the centre is pursuing research in this area and several publications in internationally reputed journals are already available.

a)Membrane Technology:

Development of multilayer membranes from eco-friendly polyelectrolytes for various environmental applications is the major field of study of this division. The major subdivisions and a schematic representation of the used of membrane in water treatment are shown in the following schemes.

Major subfields of Membrane Technology

A representative scheme demonstrating the use of nanomembranes in water treatment
Project: Polylectrolyte multilayer membranes for environmental applications

Area: Gas Separation and biogas up-gradation

The reduction of green gas emission is by the capture of carbon dioxide from the flue gases followed by underground sequestration. Gas membranes are very useful in this area and one of the prime requisite for such a thin film is stability (thermal, mechanical and chemical) as well as flexibility(large number of channels so as to allow selective permeation of carbon dioxide). These requirements can be combined in self assembled multilayer based on porous polymer support and polyelectrolyte nanolayers. The carbon capture is further enhanced by suitable functionalization of surface layer. Extra dense films can (so as to assure maximum carbon load) be manufactured cost effectively by the encapsulation of biomolecules. The interesting point is that the entire fabrication can be carried out in the most environmentally friendly solvent, namely water. The same protocol is followed for biogas upgradation.

Area: Water Treatment

A few nano layers of natural polyelectrolytes (3-5) deposited on microfiltration membrane can effectively treat effluent streams and can reduce COD and colour to a greater extent. They not only purify effluent being discharged to water bodies but recovers value added products as well. The concentrated organics can be completely released from the membrane and can be further treated by sunlight. The removal of micriopollutants from water using ultrafiltration is possible with multilayer systems. This can replace the already existing RO and NF.

Area: Development of nanomembrane based biosensors for air pollutants (DST-WOS project ongoing)

Nanomembranes fabricated from biopolymers that have intrinsic fluorescence can sense air pollutants’ such as hydrogen peroxide up to 10-12 M. Ovalbumin immobilised nanomembranes is too promising in sensing mercury and nitro compounds as well. Sensing is very efficient in layer by layer assembled films (LBL) than continuous thin films as LBL provides high surface area to volume ratio and hence maximum accessibility to the analyte molecule. Filtration layer ~5 nm

Area: Clean energy

Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC)” using methanol as fuel is a promising candidate to compete with conventional batteries. The technology behind DMFC is still in the early stages of development, but it has been successfully demonstrated powering mobile phones and laptop computers—potential target end uses in future years. Improvements in catalysts and other recent developments have increased power density 20-fold and the efficiency may eventually reach 40%. Recently, layer-by-layer (LBL) assembly of polyelectrolytes on ionomer membranes have shown to be an efficient method to improve the performance of DMFC. The presence of nanopore water and its layer dependency influences the methanol crossover. The present study focus on these parameters to reduce the methanol permeability.

Area: Green Fertilizer

The enrichment of phosphate from waste water (point discharges) is the main aim of this area. Acrylates and allylamine based multilayer membranes are most promising ones in this aspect.

b) Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOP)

Advanced oxidation technologies for the degradation of organic water pollutants is part of green chemistry. This technique make use of in-situ production of highly oxidising hydroxyl radical and this oxidising the organic pollutants leading to a complete mineralisation. This is generally achieved by using various techniques such as photocatalysis using TiO2, UV/H2O2, Fenton, photo-Fenton reactions, sonolysis, radiolysis etc. Degradation pattern of Cyanuric Acid (OOOT) on Gamma Radiolysis
and in the combined field of Gamma Radiolysis and Fenton Reaction

Areas of research in AOP

  1. Photochemical degradation of organic pollutants: This technique utilizes both UV and Vis lights in the degradation of organic pesticides, dyes and several other pollutants, in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), ferric hydroxyl complexes etc. The photolysis produces highly oxidising hydroxyl radical which attacks the aromatic ring of the organic compounds.
  2. Ultrasound initiated degradation of organic pollutants: This technique utilizes the production of hydroxyl radicals in water due to acoustic cavitation process initiated by ultrasound (20 kHz-1MHz). The degradation can also be initiated by pyrolysis as a result of the high temperature generated due to bubble collapse.
  3. Nano-particle mediated photodecomposition of organic pollutants: Detoxification of water can be qualitatively achieved using photocatalytic methods. Among the photocatalysts, TiO2 is the most commonly used material which can produce high concentrations of oxidising radicals. TiO2 is easy to produce in nanocrystalline form, i.e. with large active surface area, both on an industrial or a laboratory scale. It can be even photolysed by UVA part of the solar spectrum. A large number of organic pollutants can be degraded using this technique in solution state.Read More

Division: Earthworm Diversity Studies
Project: Studies on Earthworm Diversity and Distribution in Kerala

Kerala is gifted with the soil and climatic condition that give abode to a rich earthworm fauna. Studies on earthworm diversity, their roles as environmental and climate change indicators, agents of waste management and soil fertility are in a state of infancy in Kerala. It is in this context, collection, identification and distribution details of native and exotic forms of earth worms found in Kerala have been identified by the Centre. A well equipped laboratory has been established. So far more than 500 specimens representing different altitudes and habitat types of Kerala have been collected. It is visualized to develop the division as a specialized centre for earth worms linking it with various groups within the country and outside. Read More

Division: Human Ecology and Conservation
Project: Human Ecological Studies of Indigenous Communities in the Kerala Western Ghats

The study aims at understanding the strategies and adaptations used by the various indigenous and forest-dwelling communities living in the Southern Western Ghats landscape. Their current lifestyle and interaction patterns with the forests and nearby ecosystems, agro-ecological history and drivers of change, ethno-biological practices, socio-economic conditions, livelihood status, their level of dependencies on forest, and so on are the major parameters taken for study. The project is initiated in association with the Inter-university Centre for Social Science Research and Extension (IUCSSRE), Mahatma Gandhi University for enhancing interdisciplinary components and methodological inputs. A collection and synthesis of available reports, studies and publications are collected and processed to bring out an annotated bibliography on the subject is ongoing. A couple of field works to selected settlements of indigenous people was carried out to ensure the validity of lire.Read More