Dr. Rajagopalan Vasudevan is the "Plastic Man" who works for a "Clean India".
The worldwide struggle for the rescue of the planet is everyone's task. However, there are extraordinary people who implement inventions that revolutionize the field of ecology. Among these people is Dr. Rajagopalan Vasudevan who developed a very simple but effective technology. He transforms plastic waste into a material that replaces the bitumen used in road construction. Garbage dumps are the inexhaustible source of material for the development of this innovation.
The exciting career of a Genius
Dr. Rajagopalan Vasudevan or "Plastic Man" as he is known in the field of chemistry and engineering, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1965. Immediately thereafter he obtained a Master of Science degree in 1967. Later, in 1974, he received the title of Dr. in Sciences. All his degrees were awarded by the University of Madras where he finished his higher studies.
The Thiagarajar College Of Engineering welcomed the young investigator Vasudevan in 1975 and in 1998 as part of its teaching structure. From then on, Dr. Vasudevan dedicated his research to the management of waste. For more than 40 years he has researched processes for the reuse of plastic waste. The focus of his research led him to propose methods of recovery and reuse of plastic waste found in landfills. This is how the idea of plastic roads was born.
Dr. Vasudevan dedicated his life to seek practical solutions to complex problems by applying the principle of “jugaad”. With this in mind he articulated two complex problems in one simple solution: He directed plastic waste from landfills to road pavements. The plus of this initiative is that it considerably reduces CO2 emissions and provides communities with much-needed asphalt roads.
There are millions of kilometers of unpaved roads in India. It is well known that the high cost of bitumen stops the advance of paved roads. This situation particularly affects rural regions. Accordingly, Dr. Vasudevan succeeded in presenting an efficient, economical and environmentally friendly solution: "Waste plastic can be used as an excellent binder material to develop good roads and thus ensure better transport. The plastic coating will improve the service life of the road and this can be done by slightly modifying the existing technology. This method is cost effective and cheaper compared to 100% bituminous asphalt roads. I am willing to share the technology with Goa and help its citizens if there is government cooperation," he said during the TEDxGIM conference in Goa.
In India the spread of new technology for road paving advanced slowly over the years. In 2011 Dr Vasudevan received a copy of the special notice in the Ministry of Environment and Forests Gazette, in which they ordered all municipal authorities in the country to "encourage the use of plastic waste by adopting appropriate technology, such as in road construction...". Finally, after 36 years, the investigation of the "Plastic Man" bore fruit. The order of the Ministry of Environment is the impetus for the new technology of reuse of plastic waste to be applied throughout India. More ten years have passed since the first plastic road was built on the TCE campus.
It was Dr. Vasudevan's ethics and commitment to his nation that prevented the innovative technology of plastic roads from migrating to other countries. Patenting processes were slow and cumbersome in India but "Plastic Man" says: "But I think it is my duty to serve my country first and therefore I gave it to the Indian government for free... the bonding of plastic with bitumen is an ideal option for roads that withstand most of the torrential rains...". It serves the dual purpose of increasing the quality of roads and also solves the problem of plastic removal”.
Consequently, the technology was placed at the order of his nation. To date, plastic roads extend in Wellington, Chennai, Puducherry, Hindpur (Andhra Pradesh), Kolkata, Goa, Mumbai, Shimla, Thiruvananthapuram, Vadakara, Calicut, Kothamangalam and Kochi.
Plastic roads decrease one tone of bitumen for every kilometer of road, saving Rs.60,000 per km. It is a revolutionary technology.
Sanskrit and Science
Dr. R. Vasudevan is Dean and Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Thiagarajar College Of Engineering. In the exercise of his roles as a teacher, researcher and university authority has based his performance on the Gita. His students know him by the Sanskrit teachings he spreads during the rest hours. Dr. Vasudevan's life is dedicated to research and the dissemination of values. He received the Padma 2018 award in recognition of his dedication to research for the benefit of the environment. On the other hand, companies from all over the world ask Dr. Vasudevan and his team to advise them in the application of this green technology.
Plastic Man was succeeded to place at the service of the planet one of the most dangerous pollutants. That is why its name "Plastic Man" is a symbol of environmental sustainability.
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