More controlled grain, more gain

If your favourite detergent becomes more granular, and perhaps less expensive, in the foreseeable future, you may want to thank Narendra Akiti, a research scholar with the IITB Monash Research Academy, for it.

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries, and graduate research scholars like Narendra study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

A man pouring detergent powder into a washing machine (Picture Credit: www.wikihow.com; License: Creative Commons)

Narendra's project is titled, 'Granule Breakage in a Controlled Shear Field - Modeling and Experiments' and he is working under the supervision of Prof Devang Khakhar and Prof Karen Hapgood.

Granules have many advantages over fine powders they have increased bulk density, generate less dust, and lend themselves to better flow and handling. "Granulation," explains Narendra, "is therefore an important size enlargement process used to produce structured powdered products across a wide range of industries including detergents, minerals, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals."

Narendra is particularly excited about researching the granulation process because approximately 60 per cent of the products in chemical industries are manufactured as particulates, and another 20 per cent use powders as ingredients, according to estimations.

"It is important to understand the breakage rate process in wet granulation, as it plays a vital role in granule growth retardation, homogeneity and strength," he says. "Also, from a product perspective, the breakage rate process plays a key role in the handling, transport and final use of granular products."

Though theoretical developments in the wet granulation process have progressed significantly in recent years, there's still some time to go before we transfer these developments into industrial practice, confesses Narendra.

Granular shear flow simulation snapshot [Picture Credit: Narendra Akiti]

Elaborating on the work he has done so far, Narendra says, "We have performed experiments in controlled shear conditions (shear cell) and complex flow field (breakage only granulator) to study the breakage rate process. Besides, we are working on the simulation of granular flow and breakage of granules in a controlled shear field. We're hoping the results will guide us on how to either minimize or maximize breakage in the industrial wet granulation process, to achieve more consistent and reliable granule properties and product performance."

"I am excited about the potential that the IITB-Monash Research Academy has. I anticipate that, over time, as the 'Academy' begins to grow, it will make substantial contributions particularly in the area of industry-academia linkages," says Dr Murali Sastry, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy.

Narendra Akiti is quick to agree.

Research scholar: Narendra Akiti, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Granule Breakage in a Controlled Shear Field - Modeling and Experiments

Supervisors: Prof Devang Khakhar, Prof Karen Hapgood

Contact details: aakitinarendra@gmail.com