Sustainable Champions working on water purification using NanoTechnology

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The Dopper Changemaker Challenge started in 2017 in the Netherlands. This year, it took place in Kathmandu along with other popular European cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, and London. The final of this international competition was held on 15th June Saturday not only in Kathmandu but also in Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. In total 445 students from all over the world applied to get a chance to win the title of Changemaker 2019.

Access to Quality water is one of the major problems of our society despite being a basic need. Rajendra Joshi and Amrit Regmi, the sustainable champions researched on use of NanoTechnology to address the water problem.

rajendra-and-amrit

Read on to know about their research project. 

1. Can you tell us more about Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is the one where we reduce the size of the materials to around 10-9 meters which is the size of the marble in comparison to the size of the earth. So due to the small size, the behavior of the particle changes which increases the surface to volume ratio thus increasing the working efficiency as well as time efficiency and we will be incorporating this into water purification.

2. How are you trying to solve the problem of water pollution using Nanotechnology?
In the present world, Nanotechnology plays a vital role. The technical gadgets that we use in our daily lives have become an inseparable part of our lives. If we look at them, they used to come in the market individually with bulky and heavy outlook but at present, we can get all the features in the same device which has been possible due to the reduction in the size of the components used in these devices. 

Now in our context, we often hear the news about people being affected by waterborne diseases even after drinking filtered water. This is mainly because of the inability of the present-day filters to remove or kill microorganisms present in water. So, we are working on addressing this problem by modifying and adding the anti-microbial properties to the traditional water filter. And for this, we are trying to use nanotechnology. Hence with the help of nanotechnology, we will ensure that even the microorganisms get filtered out. 

3. What motivated you to work in this particular area?
We started off completely hardwired. We wanted to do something different as well as fascinating and found out about Nanotechnology. We liked the concept behind it and started working on it. Now having spent two-three years working on projects related to nanotechnology, we believe that nanotechnology is the future so we are constantly motivated to work in this area. It now has become a school of thought for us and we feel that many problems can be solved using this technology.

4. Where did you get to know about the Dopper changemaker challenge and how was your experience like?
We came to know about it from our friends and an orientation conducted at Research Center for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) by Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI). 

Having participated in the program, we both have grown a lot. HCI always pushed us to link our idea to society and the problems it is facing, so we were able to connect with the problems people are facing which we believe is very important for any idea to work. So, this challenge has taught us to push ourselves to connect theories and our knowledge to address real-world problems. 

5. What level of impact do you think your project has?
We believe that there is a very high impact our project can create but there are definitely many hurdles like scientific complications, ethical issues and others. Many people doubt and question the use of nanotechnology and these concerns can be acknowledged due to the fact that nanotechnology itself is a new concept here in Nepal and around the world. But again, we are sure that once the product comes out in the market it will bring changes. People will be more aware of nano techniques and the entrepreneurs may add on to this technology in the area of water purification like us or in other areas making the lives of people easier and safer. 

6. What kind of support are you guys seeking?
As we mentioned earlier, nanotechnology is a new field of research and many people doubt the possibility of nanomaterials being used in water purification. This has limited the number of people working in this field so we have a small community where we can discuss and refine our ideas (as our global reach is also very limited). So, a bigger platform that can connect us to the global research community and market is the need of the day.

Similarly, we lack well-facilitated laboratories and do not have access to chemicals which are the minimal requirements to carry out research in our field. As we do not have access to sophisticated laboratory facilities, most of the testing is done by paying and some tests are completed by sending the samples abroad (which also requires financial assistance). To add to the misery, we have little funding or no funding at all. So, financial support is also one of the things we are seeking.
In addition, there is minimal support from the university in these areas, not because of the teachers but the education system we have.

7. What do you think can be done to support new and innovative ideas?
We think that the government has an important role to play in this. They can allocate funds for entrepreneurs and youths with innovative ideas. This not only motivates people to work on their ideas but also inspires them to think out of the box. Then we will have new inventions and ideas that are surely going to help in the development of the nation. In addition to this, the findings from the projects and research at the end are going to help the government to formulate effective policies too.

8. What aspires you to keep moving despite all the challenges?
A journey without hurdles is not fun at all. It’s true that things get tough and you feel like giving up but they are the things that are going to make you strong and satisfied at the end of the day. 

One of our professors/mentors keeps on telling us the Innovation eventuate in lacking. We got to visit India and Bangladesh for research-related activities and interacted with amazing researchers there. This has also motivated us and made us believe that research is indeed valuable and is also valued which has helped us overcome the hurdles. 

9. How has the Dopper Changemaker challenge supported you?
We have got a lot of support from them. They constantly kept asking us if we needed any kind of help and they did try their best to support us. In addition to this, they have told us that they along with HCI will be helping us with the execution of our project in the future if we wanted, to which means a lot to us. They also connected us with renowned researchers in our area. All these have also motivated us to continue our project. 

10. Do you consider yourself a change-maker?
Maybe we are not the ones to pronounce ourselves changemaker but we definitely want to bring change and work for humankind. We can say that we have taken our first step to bring changes.

11. Any other information you’d like to share with us?
We’d like to say never give up. Good things take time so you just need to keep working on what you are thinking of giving up. And if everybody works with this mindset Nepal is definitely going to reach heights that it deserves. 

Also, a community can be created where youths from different fields and areas can come together and share their opinions. This not only creates a network but helps in inspiring one another and generate innovative ideas. 

For more information about this thesis, please connect Rajendra at rajendraj10@gmail.com.

Interviewed by Shambhavi Singh.
Article by Trishna Shakya.