Karan Jerath, an Indian-American student living in Friendswood, Texas recently won the prestigious Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. Karan invented a device that can swiftly shut down undersea oil spills. Karan was also one of the five students selected for the Intel and Indo-US Science and Technology Forum Visit to India Award. They will participate in a week-long visit to India to showcase their research projects, visit leading research institutions and interact with top scientists.
Oil spills involve the release of petroleum hydrocarbons in the marine environment leading to abundant economic and ecological destruction. Karan devised a machine that can collect oil leaking from a broken well on the ocean floor. He explained the working of his invention thus: “Sensors inside the 350-ton device would measure the temperature, pressure and density of the mix of gases and fluids erupting from a well. A computer would then calculate how valves in the gadget should be adjusted so that the gas and oil can be collected. That should stop a spill in its tracks. The device could help prevent an ecological catastrophe. It also would reduce cleanup costs.”
Karan’s device can ensure that undersea oil spills are cleaned in minimum time. It is highly efficient because it can operate at various depths underwater, accommodate different pipe sizes and handle all kinds of fluid composition. For this achievement 18 year-old Karan was awarded $50,000. He shared the top award with two others – one of whom developed a method to quickly diagnose HIV infections, and the other who modelled software to regulate air inside aircraft cabins to reduce disease transmission among passengers.
Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (IISEF) is an annual competition held to award the best student scientists and inventors around the world after a process of rigorous selection. Indian-Americans featured prominently in this year’s IISEF. Apart from Karan, many Indian-American students won awards in various categories. Five of them won the first award in their specialisations: biochemistry, behavioural sciences, environmental engineering, mathematics and energy physics.
This year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair featured approximately 1,700 young scientists selected from 422 affiliate fairs in more than 75 countries, regions and territories. Maya Ajmera, an Indian-descent who heads the Society for Science and the Public that conducts the IISEF, congratulated the winners and said, “These talented young students are the problem-solvers and innovators of their generation.”