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Indian-origin chemist develops high-performing materials for solar fuel cells

Dr Rajeshwar. Photo:

New York: An Indian-origin chemist from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has developed new high-performing materials for cells that harness sunlight to split carbon dioxide and water into useable fuels like methanol and hydrogen gas.

These “green fuels” can be used to power cars, home appliances or even to store energy in batteries.

“Technologies that simultaneously permit us to remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide while harnessing and storing the energy of sunlight as fuel are at the forefront of current research,” said Dr Krishnan Rajeshwar, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-founder of the university’s center of renewable energy, science and technology.

“Our new material could improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar fuel generation which is not yet economically viable,” added Rajeshwar, who earned his PhD in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

The new hybrid platform uses ultra-long carbon nanotube networks with a homogeneous coating of copper oxide nanocrystals.

It demonstrates both the high electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes and the photocathode qualities of copper oxide – efficiently converting light into the photocurrents needed for the photoelectrochemical reduction process.

“Dr Rajeshwar’s ongoing, global leadership in research focused on solar fuel generation forms part of UTA’s increasing focus on renewable and sustainable energy,” said Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA college of science.

Dr Rajeshwar’s work is representative of the university’s commitment to addressing critical issues with global environmental impact under the Strategic Plan 2020.

“Creating inexpensive ways to generate fuel from an unwanted gas like carbon dioxide would be an enormous step forward for us all,” Khaledi added.

The new material also demonstrates much greater stability during long-term photoelectrolysis than pure copper oxide, which corrodes over time, forming metallic copper.

The team is designing, building and demonstrating a “microfluidic electrochemical reactor” to recover oxygen from carbon dioxide extracted from the cabin air.

The prototype will be built over the next months at the Centre for renewable energy science and technology at UTA, said the findings, published in the journal ChemElectroChem Europe and a companion article in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Dr Rajeshwar joined the College of Science in 1983. He is a charter member of the UTA Academy of Distinguished Scholars and senior vice president of The Electrochemical Society – an organization representing the nation’s premier researchers who are dedicated to advancing solid state, electrochemical science and technology.

Dr Rajeshwar is an expert in photoelectrochemistry, nanocomposites, electrochemistry and conducting polymers and has received numerous awards. (IANS)

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean