IIT Guwahati develops low-cost technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds from agricultural resources

Guwahati: Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati researcher has developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds from wide range of agricultural resources like camellia sinensis, citrus fruits and peels especially orange peels, berries, ginkgo biloba, parsley, pulses, tea, sea buckthorn and onions.

The technology is patented and developed by Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati along with his M Tech student Mr V L Dhadge. The low-cost technology doesn’t use any organic solvents.


The health-related benefits of psychoactive drugs (caffeine) and anti-aging compounds (flavonoids) attributed to stimulating detoxification of enzyme activity and inhibition of cell invasion and angiogenesis. Because of medicinal applications, flavonoid components have gained popularity as ingredients in pharmaceutical industry. These are also found in smaller amount in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.


While explaining the process about how the technology works, Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait, said, “The developed technology is exclusively pore/particle size based pressure driven membrane separation process. The water extracts of above mentioned plants/fruits/leaves at optimum operating conditions are passed through a specially made cascade membrane units of fabricated with appropriate molecular weight cut off (MWCO) membranes capable of separating targeted flavonoids selectively. Permeate and retentive part from appropriate membrane unit is then fridge dried to get the powdered product. We have synthesized stimuli responsive smart membrane for the selective separation and purification of targeted compound from the mixture of plants or leaves or fruits extract in simple water”.


The commercially available techniques are using various costly organic solvents like: Chloroform, Acetone, Acetonitrile etc. As a result the price of these important pharmaceutical raw materials are quite high that ultimately increases the price of the antioxidant. Since organic solvents are used, the technology suffers various disadvantages like: low product quality and yield, high operating and product cost, more time consuming and high energy intensive process for solvent recovery and has limitation to run continuation mode in industrial scale. The technology developed by Prof. M K Purkait doesn’t require any costly organic solvents and uses only water. Hence, the cost of the process and price of pharmaceuticals thereon is much cheaper than that of existing solvent based separation technique. The patented membrane based green technology has enormous scope to replace existing costly organic solvent based techniques and can be used for continuation mode of operation in industrial scale.


India is the largest consumer (20% of the global production) and second largest producer of camellia sinensis. Worldwide, there are very few manufacturers of flavonoids produced using solvent based technique having less purity (40-80%) and high price. It has been estimated that the global market for flavonoids is expected to reach about 412.4 MT by 2022 from 347.8 MT in 2017 reported in the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India’s Import-Export current statistics. The developed technology will support “Make in India” initiative of the Government of India by producing these compounds in the country. This will definitely reduce the import of said polyphenolic compounds. Implementation of the said technology will also create job opportunities in agriculture sector of the country.