Dheeraj Bengrut, director of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), is the director of the National Research Institute (NCL). Dr. Lele was a former scientist at CSIR-NCL and took charge of the NCL on April 1, 2021.
Prior to taking this post, Dr. Lele served as Senior Vice President and Chief, Advanced Materials and Alternative Energy Group, Head of Faith Industries.
Since you are a director, how do you plan to move NCL forward?
In the five months since I joined NCL, there are a few things I try to bring. I will try to emphasize this again. These are the basics for the purpose of this laboratory, and that is why it was started. It is the advancement of knowledge and the use of good chemical science for human beings. We actively encourage our scientists and research students to take leadership roles in science. And the second part is to use science for the benefit of the people, which means we have to take science for the benefit of our country and internationally.
The other thing we do is work with the industry … we interact with them, we build technologies together. How do we make this happen? To do that, we must first choose the right problems. There are some important trends in India and the planet, such as climate change. These are all difficult problems and we have to divide them into different parts to work. Then we keep that knowledge of good science, and work to change it for the real use of life. It works in stages – laboratory, bench, experimental and then scale to produce.
What new research projects and initiatives are currently associated with the Covy epidemic?
NCL has developed pressure swing Absorption (PSA) technology that allows continuous supply of oxygen from the air. CSIR NCL has developed this technology and has set up more than 200 PSA units across the country to save lives during this crucial time. There is a substance in that PSA that separates oxygen from the air – it is called zeolite, and we now import it from other countries. So we build the whole plant, but the heart – the zeolite comes from outside. We have taken the challenge to develop our own zebra. After I joined, we formed a team of 10 to 12 scientists from different parts of the project. Finally, I am happy to say that there are many aspects of technology that we have referred to as “pilot” materials and what we call basic engineering. So in our country we will have a fully made ‘Made in India’ PSA unit and it will be on the market in a month. This will not stop there and we will continue to develop more zeolites and other products.
Another important project that we are working on or across the country is genome monitoring. It is the work of every Indian, with many institutions participating in it and we collect and upload about 200 CV samples every week. This monitoring helps us to understand the spread of the virus, and other things that are more vulnerable.
Any new academic courses or skills development projects for NCL research students?
We want to go beyond our research PhD students and for that we are offering skill programs for industry professionals. So industries send their engineers and young people to train, and we have a year-long calendar every year. Two new skills development programs will be added this year. One about green hydrogen technology to generate energy. Also, the sewer monitoring system we are currently implementing for Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). We can always help other research institutes prepare courses and invite other scientific institute students to NCL for training.