AIP develops Green composite boards for a greener Assam
By Deepinti Suhas Walke

Nestled in the Himalayas, Assam forms a part of the seven states of the North Eastern part of India. It produces a large amount of jute, and other natural fibers such as Banana and pineapple are abundantly found. Though Jute has good demand in India, it remains underutilized at times, while other fibers found naturally, find little commercial demand.Seeing an opportunity in these underutilized natural fibers, the Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP) project undertook the initiative to develop Green Composite boards from these locally available fibers, with expert advice from Dr. Anil Netravali, Professor,Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design at Cornell University, whose primary research area has been Green Materials.

Under the guidance of Dr. Netravali, Green composite boards have been created jointly by Dr. Binita Kalita from Assam Agricultural University (AAU) and Dr. Dipul Kalita, North-East Institute of Science & Technology (NEIST), using Jute, Banana and pineapple fibers and biodegradable resin.”I was pleased to see the progress made in making green composite samples. They looked good and could be used in many applications. It feels great that the research at Cornell can create ‘green’ jobs in India“, he said, on his recent visit to Assam, India from 11 to 15 July, 2014.

Dr. Netravali interacted with various people including scientists, a member of a Self Help Group, plywood manufacturer and local suppliers of such commodities. He felt the visit to local fiber manufacturer and handicraft maker was very beneficial. “It may be possible to bring together such small fiber manufacturers in the region to form a cooperative engagement which can ensure year-round fiber supply. By providing a Fiber Extractor the fiber production can be increased significantly“, he said.

Besides the conventional stakeholders, this idea was also pitched to extension officers and faculty at AAU. Since fiber extraction occurs at various locations in Assam, albeit for a different purpose, these officers came forward with their suggestions to build a sustainable model. Dr. Netravali also delivered a lecture on Green Materials to sensitize them on this subject and more importantly, use it as a recruiting tool to get members from other departments who could be helpful in the Green Composite project.

The visit of Dr. Anil Netravali to AAU and NEIST, Jorhat was very fruitful. Our team, working on ‘Production of Green composite from agricultural waste’ has gained from his suggestions that included selection of raw materials, process standardization, product development, quality assurance and entrepreneurship development” said Dr.Dipul Kalita, NEIST.

The possibility of a fiber extractor machine to be taken up as a project by a student of agriculture engineering was also explored.
The American Film Director and Actor, Robert Redfordrightly said “Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together“.Dr. Netravali’s assistance will surely enable the AIP green Composite team to achieve their goal.

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