Through the Researcher’s Lens

An interview with Prof. Parag Gogate

Institute of Chemical Technology houses various research groups that are supervised and mentored by professors of the Institute. We are commencing a series that highlights the research work done by various groups. The purpose of this series is to help you understand the scope of dynamic research, its impact on society, and everything between.

In the first interview of the series, we talked to Prof. Parag Gogate from the Department of Chemical Engineering about the research work being pursued by his group.

Prof. Parag R. Gogate completed his B.Chem. Engg. in 1996, M.Chem. Engg. in 1998 and Ph.D. (Tech.) in Chemical Engineering in 2002, all from Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, India. He joined ICT in 2004 as Scientist A and currently holds the position of Professor of Chemical Engineering. His research interests include cavitation phenomena, wastewater treatment, design of multiphase reactors, separation processes, and process intensification. He has published over 315 research papers in international journals and is also a well-cited researcher with over 21000 citations. Prof. Gogate has been the recipient of many awards including the Young Scientist/Engineer awards of INSA, ISCA, IEI, and INAE as well as the Amar Dye Chem Award and Hindustan Lever Biennial Award for the ‘Most Outstanding Chemical Engineer of the Year’ of the IIChE.

1. Tell us a bit about the aim and scope of the research conducted by this group.

We mainly deal with process intensification using cavitational reactors. Cavitation is a phenomenon in which the reduction of pressure to or below the liquid's vapor pressure leads to the formation of small vapor-filled cavities in the liquid. This generates physical and chemical effects in the solution which can be helpful in intensifying the processes limited by intrinsic kinetics of mass transfer resistances. Our research group is focusing on exploring the applications in different areas and then scaling up the reactors based on engineering aspects including theoretical simulations.

2. Which sector will this research find applications in?

Our research finds application in a variety of areas such as wastewater treatment, enzymatic reactions, synthesis of specialty chemicals, crystallization of pharmaceutical compounds, emulsification, atomization, food preservation especially focusing on liquid foods, and also in petroleum refining/vegetable oil processing. Currently, the group is working on a couple of sponsored projects in the area of wastewater treatment and improving the thermal and membrane desalination operations in addition to various Ph.D. projects.

3. How does a research group function efficiently?

In my opinion, an effective research group should have a lot of interactions between the members as well as within the ecosystem. Sharing of ideas and problems in regular group meetings can lead to quick solutions and directing the research in the correct direction. The members should also understand the fine balance between freedom and responsibility.

4. What have been challenges associated with this research topic?

Process intensification using cavitational reactors is an entirely new area that has not seen many industrial explorations, it has been difficult to convince people to actually implement it at the commercial level. We are working hard to develop prototypes and demonstrate the benefits in different application areas.

5. What was your motivation behind choosing this particular topic of cavitational reactors?

The work was an extension of the Ph.D. dissertation and collaborations worldwide allowed widening the scope of the research into different application areas. The innovativeness in the topic was one of the main reasons for selecting the topic for my Ph.D. I must say that the research has been very rewarding in terms of quality publications and citations.

6. What is one discovery in recent times that you find particularly interesting?

Application of ultrasound to intensify the recovery of valuable products such as lactose and whey proteins from whey, which is a dairy waste generated in huge quantities. Transforming the knowledge to the commercial level can lead to significant economic benefits as well as environmental benefits due to the tackling of the dairy effluent.

7. What scientific interests should a student have, to be a good fit for this research group?

A basic understanding of reaction engineering and environmental engineering concepts will be good for the different applications being explored in the group. Fundamental knowledge in fluid flow and numerical methods will be useful for theoretical simulations that can be planned. Our group has seen a lot of UG interns both from ICT and outside ICT and a lot of them could get publications in international journals. At least 5 students also got the IIChE award for best publication resulting from UG internship.

8. Considering that we are in uncharted waters with the COVID pandemic, how has that affected the members of the group? How is social distancing implemented in the lab?

The initial 6 months or so weren’t very fruitful, in terms of any research activity. The group was quite affected as a large part of the work is experimental which cannot be done online! However, the group utilized this time partly in writing manuscripts, especially reviewing articles which have helped students to learn more about the research areas. We have restricted entry into the lab, staggered at times and all the institute guidelines are clearly followed. We have been successful to date on zero incidences in the lab and we are looking forward to continuing this success in the future.

9. What direction does the group have planned for the times ahead?

Our group mainly plans to continue the application-oriented research and explore different areas important to the Indian industry. We are also planning to research in health care especially in terms of improving the particle characteristics of the pharmaceutical compounds and also the synthesis of microspheres as improved drug delivery systems. We are planning to venture into projects of societal importance, say in terms of developing efficient and economical wastewater treatment systems also allowing water recycling.

We hope that this interview with Prof. Parag Gogate was resourceful for young students planning to take up research as a career as well as a pleasant read for science enthusiasts.

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