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IIT Guwahati breakthrough: Transforming ‘tea waste’ into value added products; creates job opportunities

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Transforming Tea Waste: IIT Guwahati’s Groundbreaking Research


Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) has achieved a significant breakthrough in repurposing waste generated by the tea industry. This innovative research aligns with the ‘Waste to Wealth’ mission, a part of the Waste Management program initiated by the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), Government of India. The endeavor taps into a vital regional resource, fostering a more sustainable and diversified economy in India’s North Eastern states. This effort is also in line with the ‘Act East Policy’ of the Government of India, as well as the ‘Advantages Assam’ and ‘Biotechnology’ policies of the Government of Assam.

Tea is a globally cherished beverage, with consumption projected to reach 7.4 million tonnes by 2025. The surge in tea consumption leads to a corresponding increase in industrial waste, which often goes underutilized, contributing to environmental degradation. Due to its composition rich in lignin and low inorganic content, extracting value from tea waste requires advanced scientific techniques. Addressing this challenge is crucial for both industrial progress and ecological preservation.

Guwahati : Transforming ‘tea waste’ into value added products by IIT Guwahati; creates job opportunities

Value-added Products from Tea Industry Waste

Led by Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait from the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Guwahati, the research team has explored diverse applications for tea factory waste. This initiative is a result of the Abdul Kalam Technology Innovation National Fellowships from the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE). The breakthroughs achieved in the laboratory include:

  1. Low-cost antioxidant-rich supplements derived from green tea waste, providing an affordable and health-conscious lifestyle option.
  2. Organic preservatives created from green tea, extending the shelf life of fruit and vegetable juices by up to one year, reducing waste and ensuring prolonged freshness.
  3. Pharmaceutical-grade activated carbon with exceptional surface area, making it a versatile product in both pharmaceuticals and Fast-moving consumer goods (FMGC).
  4. Biochar, a byproduct of the waste, contributing significantly to waste reduction and environmental restoration, including carbon sequestration.
  5. Liquefiable carbon source for pharmaceutical applications, presenting innovative possibilities for the future of medicine.
  6. Micro and nano-crystalline cellulose tailored for intelligent packaging, meeting the evolving demands of modern consumers and industries.
  7. Carbon quantum dots under exploration for their sensing potential in detecting harmful contaminants in water bodies.

The team has filed multiple patents based on these innovations. These technologies address the broader goals of promoting sustainable practices and supporting economic growth in tea cultivation. The commercial potential of these products, such as catechin-based health supplements and organic preservatives, holds promise, responding to the increasing demand among health-conscious consumers and food processing companies.

The next steps involve advancing towards the advanced Pilot stage (TRL-7) and subsequently transferring the technology to potential industry partners. These value-added products not only enhance the economic viability of tea cultivation but also encourage sustainable practices by reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency.

Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, established in 1994, has been a cornerstone of engineering education in India. Offering a wide array of programs, including BTech, BDes, BSc(Hons), MA, MDes, MTech, MSc, MS(R), MBA, and PhD, IIT Guwahati has consistently ranked among the top engineering institutions in the country. Moreover, it has gained international recognition, securing a position among the top 100 world universities under 50 years of age. This institution continues to spearhead critical research initiatives in various fields, including Genomics, Developmental Biology, Health Care, Bioinformatics, and Flexible Electronics.

The pioneering research conducted by IIT Guwahati in the utilization of tea waste marks a significant step towards sustainable practices and economic diversification in the North Eastern states of India. By converting tea industry waste into a range of value-added products, including supplements, preservatives, and pharmaceutical-grade materials, this innovation not only addresses waste management challenges but also opens new avenues for entrepreneurship and employment.

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