Indian MIT Alumnus Wins Innovator of the Year Award

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 3 (IANS) An Indian alumnus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has won the Innovator of the Year honour from Technology Review India by designing an ultra lightweight jacket to keep one cool in hot summers.

A postgraduate in Mechanical Engineering and Technology Policy Programme from MIT, Kranthi Kiran Vistakula's jacket weighing 650-700 gm can keep a user's body between 18 and 40 degrees Celsius in temperatures ranging from minus 30 to plus 50.

Vistakula's "heat exchange" technology called ClimaCon has applications beyond the apparel space, finding uses in infant incubators and cooling large spaces such as auditoriums.

But it was a personal need that saw him working on the jacket, says Technology Review, the oldest technology magazine published by MIT.

"While pursuing my Masters at MIT, I found the process of putting on and taking off additional layers of clothing in winter very cumbersome. To overcome this inconvenience, I started working on developing a jacket with the capacity to both heat and cool. I put the Peltier effect into application for achieving this purpose," says Vistakula.

But it was easier said than done. For Vistakula soon realised that a new technology would have to be developed to make the jacket lightweight and to both heat and cool.

"I had to work on developing a new heat exchanger or heat sink in order to keep the jacket light. After three years' worth of effort and experimentation, the weight of the jacket stands at just 650 grams, almost equivalent to the weight of a regular pair of jeans," he says proudly.

Vistakula will be formally awarded the "Innovator of the Year" title as MIT's Technology Review Jason Pontin unveils the list of India TR35-innovators under the age of 35 in Bangalore next week.

Vistakula will be demonstrating his innovation to a packed hall of scientists and attendees from MIT among others at the Emerging Technologies conference, EmTech India on March 8.

The heat exchanger was designed to make use of the breakage of hydrogen bonds for the dissipation of heat rather than the conventional methods of using a fan or cooled liquid for heat removal. A hydrogen bond self-recharging nanomaterial was used to work in extreme conditions.

"The jacket can be worn and carried around like a normal jacket with up to eight hours of performance on a single charge of batteries. It can also be cleaned and cared for like normal jackets," explains Vistakula.

Vistakula's venture, Dhama Apparel Innovations, was selected as one of the top 100 technology companies in Asia and top 200 technology companies in the world by Red Herring magazine.

"Dhama's products are more efficient and light weight as compared to its competitors like Texas cool vest, Arctic heat, and Frisby technologies," he says.

Dhama's product team is also working closely with the army to develop a solution for heating/cooling missiles, which will increase the performance and reduce various tangible and intangible costs incurred by the army, said Harshal Shah, CEO of Reliance Technology Ventures Limited, that has invested in Vistakula's venture.


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