Bengaluru: Using agricultural resources, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati researchers have developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-ageing compounds, as reported by Times of India. 

These have been developed from camellia sinensis, citrus fruits and peels — especially orange peels, berries, ginkgo biloba, parsley, pulses, tea, sea buckthorn and onions.

The website states that the technology is patented and developed by prof Mihir Kumar Purkait, head, centre for the environment, and professor, department of chemical engineering, IIT Guwahati, along with his MTech student VL Dhadge. The low-cost technology doesn’t use any organic solvents.

Psychoactive drugs (caffeine) and anti-ageing compounds help in stimulating detoxification of enzyme activity and inhibition of cell invasion and angiogenesis. 

These components have gained popularity as ingredients in the pharmaceutical industry. These are also found in smaller amounts in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.

The website quoted prof Mihir Kumar Purkait as saying, “The developed technology is exclusively pore/particle size-based pressure driven membrane separation process. The water extracts of 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. 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 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,” the statement issued by IIT read.

It is estimated that the market for flavonoids is expected to increase by 2022. 
“It has been estimated that the global market for flavonoids is expected to reach about 412.4 mt by 2022 from 347.8 mt in 2017 reported in the ministry of commerce, Government of India’s Import-Export statistics. The developed technology will support the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Centre by producing these compounds in the country. This will definitely reduce the import of said polyphenolic compounds. Implementation of the technology will also create job opportunities in agriculture sector of the country,” the statement said.