Power from pine cones: Kashmir physicist’s research to debut in world’s leading Science journal
Srinagar, Mar 31: A coincidence similar to noted English physicist Isaac Newton made a Kulgam youth set foot on a journey to find an alternative energy source.
It was a routine picnic in 2016 for Yasir Bhat, a 27-year-old physicist, when he and his friends spotted falling pine cones in the forests of Kulgam.
While others ignored it, Yasir took home a few kilograms of the cones with a hope to use his knowledge to derive something productive out of it.
As a researcher in energy technology dealing with super capacitors (energy storing devices), he was curious to derive from these cones an activated carbon (energy source), which could store enormous energy (electricity) and be an alternative to other depleting energy resources.
Coming from a farming family in Amnoo village of Kulgam, Yasir, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Delhi, took it as a challenge to work on the idea and write a paper that could scientifically explain the processes and results.
“I took at least 3 kilos of pine cones and burnt it. I grinded the coal and washed it to add chemical activating agents including zinc chloride.
“Then I gave the powder constant heat ranging from room temperature to 800 degrees Celsius before exposing it to nitrogen gas. After this I exposed the powder to Carbon Dioxide which made it porous,” said Yasir, explaining his research to The Kashmir Monitor.
He followed it up with many experiments, all attempting to prove that the cones could be a source to develop capacitors to deal with energy crisis particularly electricity.
“We did Raman analysis and other process to see its efficiency,” he said.
After years of hard work, Yasir’s research was finally endorsed by Electrochimica Acta, a globally-reputed journal of electrochemistry with an impact factor of 5.116, which has agreed to publish his research without further modifications.
“The manuscript will now go to the Production Department of Elsevier for technical editing. You will receive the proofs from Elsevier in due course,” a communication from Electrochimica Acta reads.
Elsevier is a Dutch information and analytics company and one of the world’s major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information. It was established in 1880.
With a forest cover of 53 per cent majorly covered with pine trees, Kashmir produces a huge quantity of the cones Yasir is researching on. He believes it can combat the world energy crisis including lack of electricity and depletion of fuel resources.
“Energy resources are depleting and can’t be revived. Every country is experimenting with alternative energy sources and Kashmir’s pine cone can prove to be a great subject matter in this regard,” he said.
Though naturally gifted with many water bodies, Kashmir has to witness an electricity crisis as most of the hydro-power generated here is used to lighten up other states.
Yasir, however, says his research, if further worked on, can be a breakthrough in providing uninterrupted electricity.
“The most interesting fact in my research is that such energy devices can work under minus 40 degree Celsius to 80 degree Celsius. Besides, they require very less time to recharge and can last longer,” he said.
Yasir said his discovery can prove beneficial for many government projects as well.
“Government recently announced battery-operated vehicles to be used in Kashmir, which can prove efficient through the use of capacitors generated from pine cones. These capacitors are equally useful in fire services, memory protection devices and storage of energy,” he said.
A gold medalist and ‘Ministry for Science and Technology’s Department of Science & Technology inspire fellow’, Yasir says the discovery has been one of his challenging works as he would spend hours daily in the Delhi University lab.
“None from my family has ever gone to school. My brothers work at a saw mill. I was initially laughed at back in Kashmir. Then the research was not possible in Kashmir due to the lack of avenues and I had to conduct most of my experiments in Delhi University,” he said.
While he is looking forward to getting more recognition from international bio-energy companies, Yasir hopes his research will generate awareness worldwide about presence of massive bio-resources in Kashmir.
“An international consulting and advisory organization, ‘BioEnergy Consult’ has expressed their desire to work with me and publish my research. Kashmir is lagging behind when it becomes to technology but I hope my research and work will promote the bio-resources of the valley,” he said.