IIT Guwahati researchers have developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds from 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 was patented and developed by Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering along with his MTech student VL Dhadge.
This process doesn’t require any organic solvents as used commercially in the industry and so, can cut down the production cost and price drastically.
Why psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds are important
Because of medicinal applications, anti-aging compounds have gained popularity as ingredients in pharmaceutical industry.
These are also found in smaller amount in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.
How does the low-cost technology by IIT Guwahati work?
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 the 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,” he said.
“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 targeted compound from the mixture of plants or leaves or fruits extract in simple water,” the professor added.
Why is a low-cost production of these compounds so important?
The low-cost technology developed by IIT Guwahati doesn’t use any organic solvents. The commercially available techniques are using various costly organic solvents like: Chloroform, Acetone, Acetonitrile etc.
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. MK 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 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 in industrial scale.
India’s production of anti-aging compounds and psychoactive drugs
India is the largest consumer (20% of the global production) and second largest producer of camellia sinensis. Worldwide, there are very few manufacturers of flavonoids produced using solvent-based techniques having less purity (40-80%) and high price.
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 agriculture sector of the country.