Pondicherry University’s Department of Green Energy Technology, led by Associate Professor of the Department A. Sreekumar, recently announced they have perfected two solar-powered vegetable and fruit driers that can be used in a variety of industries including fisheries and agriculture in India.
The Department is now trying to patent the invention with the hopes that the technology could soon be marketed across the country.
The concept behind both the driers is the same, to use the power of the sun to dry out the fruits, vegetable, fish or meat that is placed inside it.
The first drier model harnesses the solar energy and converts into hot air for the ideal temperature to dry out agricultural produce, around 65 degrees Celsius. Using a mesh-like material to capture the sun’s heat, the hot air that is generated is pumped into the drier box using a motor. The capacity of the machine can be improved with larger solar panels, but with the current size, they are able to heat the air up to 90 degrees Celsius and provide around 500 cubic meter of hot air per hour.
The advantage of this kind of drier is that since the produce being dried out does not come in direct contact with the sun, the color of the vegetable, fruit or other produce does not change. The second type of solar-powered drier is more crude, but can be used in home-based industries as well, since it costs only around Rs. 30,000 to build.
The second drier also works a bit faster, but the produce is exposed to the direct rays of the sun through a glass sheet on the top. In this model, a solar powered DC fan is used to keep the temperature of the food item constant inside the box. In the afternoon, when the solar cells receive the most energy, the fan spins faster, while in the evening and and night the fan will spins slower and slower, Professor Sreekumar explained.
Both the projects were developed using a University Grants Commission funding for the development of matrix solar air heaters for medium temperature applications in agricultural and industrial sectors, according to Sreekumar.
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