Published: 27th October 2020
IIT Guwahati develops low-cost tech to produce psychoactive drugs, anti-ageing compounds from agricultural resources
The low-cost technology is patented and developed by Professor Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and a few others from the institute
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati researcher has developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-ageing compounds from a wide range of agricultural resources like Camellia Sinensis, citrus fruits and peels especially orange peels, berries, ginkgo Biloba, parsley, pulses, tea, sea buckthorn and onions.
The technology is patented and developed by Prof Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati along with his M Tech student Mr V L Dhadge. The low-cost technology doesn’t use any organic solvents.
The health-related beneﬁts of psychoactive drugs (caffeine) and anti-ageing compounds (ﬂavonoids) attributed to stimulating detoxiﬁcation of enzyme activity and inhibition of cell invasion and angiogenesis. Because of medicinal applications, ﬂavonoid components have gained popularity as ingredients in the pharmaceutical industry. These are also found in smaller amount in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.
While explaining the process about how the technology works, Prof Mihir Kumar Purkait, said, “The developed technology is exclusively pore/particle size based pressure-driven membrane separation process. The water extracts of above-mentioned plants/fruits/leaves at optimum operating conditions are passed through a specially made cascade membrane units of fabricated with appropriate molecular weight cut off (MWCO) membranes capable of separating targeted flavonoids selectively. Permeate and retentive part from appropriate membrane unit is then fridge dried to get the powdered product. We have synthesized stimuli-responsive smart membrane for the selective separation and purification of the targeted compound from the mixture of plants or leaves or fruits extract in simple water”.
The commercially available techniques are using various costly organic solvents like Chloroform, Acetone, Acetonitrile etc. As a result, the price of these important pharmaceutical raw materials is quite high that ultimately increases the price of the antioxidant. Since organic solvents are used, the technology suffers various disadvantages like low product quality and yield, high operating and product cost, more time consuming and high energy-intensive process for solvent recovery and has limitation to run continuation mode in industrial scale. The technology developed by Prof M K Purkait doesn’t require any costly organic solvents and uses only water. Hence, the cost of the process and price of pharmaceuticals thereon is much cheaper than that of the existing solvent-based separation technique. The patented membrane-based green technology has enormous scope to replace existing costly organic solvent-based techniques and can be used for continuation mode of operation on an industrial scale.
India is the largest consumer (20% of the global production) and the second-largest producer of Camellia Sinensis. Worldwide, there are very few manufacturers of flavonoids produced using solvent-based technique having less purity (40-80%) and high price. It has been estimated that the global market for flavonoids is expected to reach about 412.4 MT by 2022 from 347.8 MT in 2017 reported in the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India’s Import-Export current statistics. The developed technology will support the "Make in India" initiative of the Government of India by producing these compounds in the country. This will definitely reduce the import of said polyphenolic compounds. Implementation of the said technology will also create job opportunities in the agriculture sector of the country.