5 Feb 2014

“Knowledge Begets Strength”: Research and Development at Defence Lab, Jodhpur

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of the Ministry ofDefence is basically responsible for the development of technology, primarily for the armed forces. It was formed in 1958 by the merger of the Technical Development Establishment and the Directorate of Technical Development and Production with the Defence ScienceOrganisation.

The underlying vision of the organization as such is to make India prosperous by establishing world class science and technology base and provide our Defence Services a decisive edge by equipping them with internationally competitive systems and solutions.

DRDO has a network of 53 laboratories which are deeply engaged in developingdefence technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronic and computer sciences, human resource development, life sciences, materials, missiles, combat vehicles development and naval research and development. The organization includes more than 5,000 scientists and about 25,000 other scientific, technical and supporting personnel.

The Defence Laboratory at Jodhpur
The Defence Laboratory at Jodhpur is one of the several laboratories of the DRDO. It was established on May 16, 1959.Previously located in Ratanada PalaceJodhpur, it is nowfunctioning from the New Technical Complex (NTC).

Its charter of duties was primarily oriented to solve problems faced by troops operating in desert environmental conditions. These included transportation, deployment of weapons, equipments, stores etc. The original charter also included basic research related to arid zone physiology, radio wave propagation, harnessing of solar energy etc.

The Defence Laboratory had made an initial impact in harnessing solar energy by developing a number of gadgets and achieved good progress in the fields of physiology and training aids. Later, with the expansion of the laboratory in 1972, its Charter of Duties was revised by adding camouflage, deception, detection, reconnaissance, operational research, electronics, communications, drinking water problems, soil stabilization etc.

Later still, in 1979, a committee under the chairmanship of the late Dr Raja Ramannaexamined the scope of applications of ionizing radiations in quality control. After protracted deliberations, the committee recommended that suitable infrastructure for such research should be established at Defence Laboratory. The Charter of Duties was reviewed yet again in 2002. The thrust areas for research were identified as camouflage and low observable technologies, nuclear radiation management and applications and desert environmental science and technologies.

At present there are 95 scientists and 372 other staff members working at the DefenceLaboratory.
Recently, a group of journalists from Tamil Nadu, under the aegis of the Press Information Bureau, Chennai paid a visit to Defence Laboratory at Jodhpur. They met DrVadera, Director, Defence Laboratory and had a meaningful interaction with him. Dr SR Vadera did his M Sc in Physics from the University of Jodhpur in 1980 with University Gold Medal and worked there as Junior Research Fellow during 1981 to 1983. His doctoral research is in the area of Mossabuer Spectroscopy, which he completed in 1989 from the University of Jodhpur.

He joined the Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur, in 1983 and carried out R&D work in the areas of Mossbauer Spectroscopy, Conducting Polymers and Nano materials. He was actively associated with the development of a number of strategically important products including anti-radar paint (RAP MK-I), Cam and IRR paints, anti-static and radio transparent paint (RDM-1), etc. Some of these items are being bulk produced for the use on military equipment. DrVadera has more than 50 research papers published in international journals.

In simple and engaging words, Dr Vadera explained that camouflaging (i.e. deceiving the enemy by hiding or by placing similar objects which alone will be seen by the enemy forces), nuclear radiation and desert sciences are the principal areas wherein research and development is being done at the Defence Laboratory. He explained that nano technology based solutions are also being worked out in a big way at the Defence Laboratory.

Dr Vadera said that another aspect of the work being done at DRDO labs was the examination of possible spin offs from the technologies developed at the DRDO labs. He said that the primary work being done in these labs is for the use of the armed forces. Such work requires a higher degree of precision and calibration and hence they are naturally more expensive.

However, wherever possible, such technologies are converted to simpler forms, in a more cost effective manner, and passed to civilian use and industries. Such transfer is usually handled through the Transfer of Technology (ToT) method.

Some Technologies Developed at Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur   
The team of journalists was taken on a tour of the excellent facilities available at theDefence Laboratory. One of the interesting technologies we saw was the NBC Water Purification System. This system is primarily being used by the army. It removes all kinds of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical contaminants. An adapted version of this is being developed for civilian use.

Another interesting product was the Fast setting High Strength Polymer Concrete Composite (Polycc). This is an amazing product developed by the Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur for the use of the army and the air force.
It is a kind of concrete that sets in two hours time. It has high strength; it is resistant to chemicals, heat, abrasions as well as fatigue. In war conditions, the polycc is of immense use in quickly repairing damaged runways.

A story about Polycc
The staff of the Defence Laboratory had an excellent real life experience to tell about the Polycc. It was used in Trivandrum some time back, when a Mig 21 had to be ground tested at the airport there after suffering a direct bird hit. For the purpose of the test, mooring rings had to be laid – a process that usually takes about 28 days using conventional methods. However, the work was enormously quickened and most effectively too, by using Polycc.

Water Testing Kit
Ascertaining the water quality in order to get rid of water-borne diseases is a basic need. DRDO has developed a simple technology for testing the potability of drinking water under field conditions for the benefit of the people living in the remote areas where accessibility and scarcity of treated water prevails. The kit can even be used in the field condition by a semi-skilled person for testing potability of the water. The kit is designed to yield semi-quantitative results and provides water testing facilities for both physico-chemical and bacteriological parameters on accept/reject basis. It gives results on pH, fluoride, turbidity, nitrate, total hardness, residual chlorine, chloride, iron, and coliform bacteria.

The kit is cheap and suitable to carry. It carries high quality reagents to analyse 100 samples. The test results are accurate and precise.

Biological bandages
The Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur has also successfully developed placenta based biological bandages that can be used as efficient wound dressings. A synthetic version has also been developed using nano silver.

Balasya Moolam Vijnanam
At the threshold of Defence Laboratory,Jodhpur one is greeted by the motto of the DRDO framed in large letters. It means “Knowledge begets strength” – or the basis of strength is knowledge.
The DRDO and its laboratories are living and working symbols of this meaningful motto.

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