For a breath of fresh air

My work deals with air, the fundamental necessity of all organisms," declares Abhishek Sharma, a native of the desert state of Rajasthan solemnly. "Life can be prolonged without water and food, but not for a minute can we live without air."

This research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy has his feet firmly on the ground—he enjoys the outdoors, especially football. Reducing air pollution is his mission, and his project is titled 'Predicting Separation Selectivity in Nanoporous Materials'

Thousands of nanoporous materials have been synthesized to date. However, finding a right material for a targeted application requires lots of trial and error experimentation. This is why Abhishek decided to work on screening materials using computational modelling, thereby reducing design time and cost.

Simulation allows Abhishek the luxury of predicting the actual experimental properties of nanomaterials from bottom up without leaving his computer desk. "Running simulations are easy, but planning for performing rational computation and analyzing huge data after simulation is challenging. We need to use effective and optimized theory and simulation parameters for prediction," he reveals.

Fig 1 : Secretion of gaseous pollutants in environment from
industries. (Source)

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a pioneering joint-venture research partnership between two leading institutions in India and Australia. It offers research scholars like Abhishek the opportunity to study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay in India and Monash University in Australia. Students spend time at both countries over the course of their research, and many of them work on projects that are strongly-interdisciplinary in nature and with an applied research focus.

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of The Academy, "A large number of multi-national companies have set up R&D centres in India. It is important that IIT Bombay and Monash University are connected to the research agenda that is being crafted in these R&D centres. Given its strong industry-facing intent, the IITB-Monash Research Academy is an important vehicle that will help achieve this connection."

Abhishek hopes that his work will contribute to providing a clean environment—for people as well as industries. "Porous materials which hold the world record in adsorption capacity for methane or hydrogen gas could be used in fuel storage tanks of transport vehicles. Apart from storage, properly engineered nanoporous materials could be used to separate carbon dioxide (CO2) from post-combustion gas mixtures (CO2 and N2) and natural gas (CO2 and CH4). Likewise, some nanoporous materials could be used in breathing masks to separate oxygen gas from mixture of polluted gases, to provide clean breathing air to people," he says.

Fig. 2: Schematic representation of adsorbed gas in nanoporous material

The continuous release of greenhouse gases from industries and vehicles is a serious threat to our environment. CO2 is a major component of greenhouse gases, and its removal is vital for environmental protection. Abhishek is convinced that an efficient design of nanoporous materials to suck the polluted gas from the point source will lead to a more-pollution free world.

The next time you inhale a lungful of fresh air, doff your hat to researchers like him

Research scholar: Abhishek Sharma, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Predicting Separation Selectivity in Nanoporous Materials

Supervisors: Dr. Ateeque Malani, Dr. Ravichandar Babarao and Dr. Nikhil Medhekar

Contact details: abhishek.sharma@monash.edu

This story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.