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Indian NGO awarded for its innovative lantern-cum-stove

Jul 15, 2009

A lantern-cum-stove developed for rural application by an Indian NGO and research institute has won this year’s Global Sustainability Research Award. This unique appliance is a low-grade ethanol-filled cylinder, which provides energy to produce high quality light in a lantern as also clean fuel for cooking.

Pune: Amidst tough competition from five prominent nominees, the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), located at Phaltan in Maharashtra, won this year’s Global Sustainability Research Award 2009.


HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the award to NARI’s director Anil Rajvanshi at a ceremony in the Winter Garden of Grand Hotel in Stockholm last month.

The goal of the award is to discover and encourage researchers and research institutes engaged in the field of sustainability research.

Mohan Munasinghe, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2007 and Vice Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chaired the jury for the award.

Tough competition

Speaking about what fetched NARI this prestigious award, Dr Rajvanshi says: “We got it for the development of a low-grade ethanol-filled cylinder which provides energy to produce high quality light output in a lantern as well as clean fuel for cooking systems.

The award was judged on several criteria, including originality, practicality, and contributions to humanity through economic gains, social development and environmental protection.”

NARI is a non-profit research and development institute. B.V. Nimbkar who remained its first president till 1990 established it in 1968. The mantle has now been passed on to Dr Nandini Nimbkar. The institute undertakes research and development in agriculture, renewable energy, animal husbandry and sustainable development.

“The dual purpose lantern is the result of a need in rural areas to provide for an alternative lighting source due to frequent power breakdowns or the total absence of electricity. Also, it helps do away with chulhas that use up natural resources and create smoke that harms the women who have to sit in front of them for long hours,” Dr Rajvanshi states.

The lantern-cum-stove can run on a 55-60% ethanol-water mixture and produces light output equivalent to that from a 100W electric bulb.

Such a lantern has been found to be a good substitute for the typical hurricane lantern that produces an abysmal quality of light.

“A hurricane lantern can produce light which is equivalent to a few candles and about one-tenth of that from a 60W light bulb,” Rajvanshi points out.

The USP of the lantern is that its top cover can be removed to place a utensil over the chimney so that it doubles up as a cooking stove. “About 100 gms of rice and 100 gms of dal (lentil soup) can be cooked easily in 25 and 60 minutes respectively,” Rajvanshi states.

For Dr Rajvanshi research projects such as these forms for a life-long commitment to use modern science and technology to achieve environmentally sound rural development.

His work of over 25 years has therefore spanned a whole spectrum of areas that have included among others cooking and lighting, small power generation, water purification, and effluent treatment through the use of renewable energy in an environmentally sound manner.

His profile

Born and raised in Lucknow, Dr Rajvanshi obtained B.Tech and M.Tech degrees in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur in the early 1970s.

He then went to the US to pursue a Ph.D degree at the University of Florida where he acquired a doctorate with specialisation in solar energy. He later taught at the University of Florida for two and a half years before returning to India in 1981 to join NARI.

“My focus on developing energy solutions started during my early days in Phaltan when the electricity supply situation was pathetic. I then started working on developing an improved liquid fuel lantern. The designing of the lantern required very sophisticated tools of heat and mass transfer, combustion mechanics and fluid dynamics. We christened this lantern Noorie,” he recalls.

In developing this lantern, Dr Rajvanshi became acutely aware of the need for developing an alternative liquid fuel for kerosene which should be renewable and home grown.

Consequently, he and his team established the pioneering programme of production of ethanol from sweet sorghum in the mid-1980s.

Sweet sorghum is an excellent substitute to sugarcane for ethanol production. It produces grain, sweet juice and excellent fodder simultaneously from the same piece of land.

These efforts resulted in making NARI the only institute in India to be invited by the European Economic Commission to be a part of a European network in sweet sorghum research and development in 1993.

In fact, Dr Rajvanshi’s path-breaking research on lighting and cooking technologies has led it to be replicated all over the world.

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