Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) will soon house some of the high-end and complex instrumentation facilities required to carry out the most advanced scientific research.
So far, there are only 18 national institutions, including a few IITs, which have been shortlisted to house modern equipment provided under the Sophisticated Analytical Instrumentation Facilities (SAIF), funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Some of the key instruments, costing several crores, need to be imported, including the electron microscope, transmission electron microscope (TEM), electron probe micro analyser (EPMA), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), electron pragmatic resonance (EPR) and several kinds of X-ray machines, among others. The scheme aims to set up centralised instrumentation facilities for academia, industry and labs so that the cost of owning and maintaining this equipment does not hinder research.
The SPPU had sent a proposal to DST earlier this year, after which a team of DST officials and other national-level institutes visited the campus to review the university’s capacities and existing facilities before considering its candidature.
“It will be a central instrumentation facility that can be utilised to conduct research in all branches of science. Along with researchers from SPPU, scientists from institutions, labs and industries, too, can avail this facility once it’s built. It is also an effort to realise and match the requirements as per Industry 4.0,” Nitin Karmalkar, SPPU vice chancellor, told The Indian Express.
The SPPU is the process of finalising the facilities and the instruments, collectively worth Rs 125 crore, and a meeting in this regard is scheduled on April 29.
While broader areas of research and the use of these instruments will be identified later, the two specialised projects for which SPPU will play a key role remain — human resource development required for the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) in partnership with Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. The second flagship project will be working on developing payloads for future space programmes to be executed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). LIGO is an international astronomy project and India is a key player in building the third of the tri-gravitational wave detectors that will be set up in Hingoli district of Maharashtra.
“For the LIGO project, the focus remains in capacity building and developing prototypes for the project. Whereas with ISRO, these instruments shall be used in working closely for the development of payloads, for instance, future missions like Gaganyan,” said Karmalkar.
Unlike other national institutes that have bagged the similar scheme, the SPPU also proposes to set up a food and drug analysis wing, which it later plans to scale up to offer consultations and provide analysis of samples.
While SPPU has been allocating large funds for setting up next generation instrumentation facilities on the campus and has spent approximately Rs 20 crore in the last five years, this DST scheme is a much-needed boost to enhance its capabilities.
Once finalised, all instruments under SAIF will be housed at the recently completed space attached to the Department of Chemistry, which offers an exclusive area spanning 10,000 sq feet. “While the scheme is completely DST-funded, its maintenance will be SPPU’s responsibility,” he said.
Presently, SAIFs are available at IITs in Chennai, Powai and Roorkee; IISc in Bengaluru, Panjab University, Chandigarh, CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, North East Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, Guwahati University, Guwahati, Charutar Vidyamandal (CVM Vallbh Vidanagar), Gujarat and Sophisticated Test and Instrumentation Centre (STIC), Cochin. In the second phase, similar facilities will come up at IIT Patna, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, Karnataka University, Dharwad, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya, Bilaspur, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur and Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.