IIT Guwahati researchers develop technology to tea factory waste to pharma products

Tea waste to pharma products

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IIT Guwahati researchers turn tea factory waste to pharma products

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have developed innovative technologies to create pharmaceutical and food products from waste coming out of tea factories. In line with the scope of the waste-to-wealth mission (W2W) of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), Government of India, this research leverages a key regional resource to promote a more sustainable and diversified economy in the North Eastern states of India. The research will also fulfil the purpose of the “Act East Policy” of Govt of India, “Advantages Assam” and “Biotechnology” policy of Govt of Assam.

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the globe with the world tea consumption expected to rise to 7.4 million tonnes from the current 6.3 million tonnes by 2025. The increase in tea consumption leads to an increase in the generation of tea waste, leading to non-utilisation of valuable agricultural resources. Because of its high lignin and low inorganic content, efficient utilization of tea industry wastes demands scientifically advanced techniques.

Addressing these issues, the research team led by Mihir Kumar Purkait, department of chemical engineering, IIT Guwahati, has carried out cutting-edge research on the diversified application of tea factory waste to various pharmaceutical and food products as an output of Abdul Kalam Technology Innovation National Fellowships of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE).

According to a statement quoted in The Hindu, Purkait said, “The convenience and health benefits of catechin-based capsules open a promising avenue, offering users access to the advantages of catechins without the necessity of multiple cups of green tea. This caters to the increasing demand for antioxidant-rich supplements in our daily routines,” elaborating on one such technology to harness the potential of tea waste

The range of innovative value-added products developed in their laboratory at IIT Guwahati includes low-cost antioxidant-rich supplements designed to provide an affordable healthier lifestyle option by harnessing green tea’s potential properties, and organic preservatives for extending the shelf life of vegetable and fruit juices for up to one year, ensuring long-lasting freshness.

Among the other products are biochar for waste reduction and environmental restoration including carbon sequestration, micro and nano-crystalline cellulose tailored for intelligent packaging, and carbon quantum dots currently being explored for detecting harmful contaminants in water bodies.

The research team comprising Somnath Chanda, Prangan Duarah, and Banhisikha Debnath apart from Purkait has filed multiple patents on the basis of these developments.

Purkait further adds, “The lignin-rich spent tea leaves are transformed into activated carbon through a specialized reactor. This involves a dual-step procedure: first, carbonization, which converts lingo-cellulosic biomass into a carbon-rich matrix; then, activation, which creates a porous structure, enhancing adsorption properties for a wide range of applications that includes, food grade activated carbon as an alternative to synthetic food colorant to impart blackish, hues.”

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