Indian Inventions You Probably Never Knew About

Indian Inventions You Probably Never Knew About

From plastic roads to the world’s smallest satellite—these are some of the most innovative ideas to come out of India!

As home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has contributed tremendously to the technological development of the world. Some of the most important inventions that originated in ancient India are the concept of the number “zero”, the game of chess and even the first known accounts of plastic surgery. 

Much like in the past, the country is still deeply intertwined with innovation. If you are curious about what the country has to offer, here is a list of some of the more recent Indian inventions that deserve more recognition. 

Plastic roads

In 2001, Chemistry Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan was looking for a way to effectively dispose of plastic waste. So, he came up with the idea of spraying dry shredded plastic on gravel or bitumen (a mixture of hydrocarbons) which were then heated to 170 degrees to make the plastic fuse with the gravel/bitumen. Vasudevan added this material to molten tar and built the road of his college campus. In doing so, he realized that this new material could hit two birds with one stone: it could create sturdy, pot-hole-proof roads while reusing plastic waste. His invention has since been used to create plastic roads in multiple Indian cities including Pune, Lucknow and Indore. Vasudevan has been awarded a Padma Shri award in 2018, one of the highest civilian honors in the country. 

Edible cutlery

While you may have heard of edible cutlery before, its origins lie in India. The inventor, Scientist Narayana Peesapati, came up with the idea for edible cutlery when he was on a flight and saw a fellow passenger use the Indian snack khakra (a thin cracker) as a spatula. Peesapati was acutely aware of the impact of plastic waste on the environment and also the human body. And so, in 2010, he created his own cutlery company called Bakley’s and began producing a range of edible cutlery made up of sorghum. These spoons come in a wide variety of flavors including— sugar, ginger-cinnamon and cumin.

Goggles for the blind

In 2017, a grade 11 student, Anang Tadar, invented Goggles for the Blind (also called G4B) to help the visually impaired safely navigate their surroundings. These goggles use ultrasound and infrared sensors to help blind people detect objects within two meters of them. Whenever an obstacle is detected, a beep is emitted from the goggles’ audio output to alert the user of its presence. Tadar’s invention got him the attention of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Both of these organizations urged him to make more prototypes in the hopes of launching the product into the market. 

Since then, Tadar has been working on developing various models of these goggles, he hopes to create a cost-effective version of the goggles to provide equal access to the tech to people from various backgrounds. 

Low-cost artificial voice box 

Image courtesy of Aum Voice Prosthesis’ Facebook page

Throat cancer patients who lose their voice typically have to spend anywhere between INR 20,000-25,000 (US$243-US$303) to get an artificial voice box. However, the cost of the product drastically came down with the entry of the Aum voice prosthesis created by Oncologist Dr. Vishal Rao in 2015. This prosthetic voice box sends air from the lungs to the food pipe, making it vibrate as a voice box would. The Aum voice prosthesis costs INR 50 (US$0.61) and requires a short 15-minute surgery to be fitted inside the patient’s throat. 

After first creating the product, Rao and his business partner Shanker Mahesh co-founded the startup Innaumation in 2017. The product’s price has gone up over the years, and as of 2020, it costs INR 3000 (US$36.46), but this price is still 85% lower than other prostheses in the market. The product now also comes with a range of accessories, like guide wires (wires used to manever surgical equipment inside the body), a secondary inserter, a brush and an inserter hard gel (refer to the image). 

World’s smallest satellite 

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the smallest satellite in the world in 2017. This satellite was designed by an 18-year-old Indian student, Rifath Sharook, and his team named “Kalamsat” —named after the former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam. The satellite weighed around 64 grams and was made up of reinforced carbon fiber polymer and was created using 3D printing technology. According to Sharook, the main aim of the project was to demonstrate the performance of carbon fiber polymer. It was also equipped with a nano Geiger Muller counter (an instrument used for detecting radiation) to measure the radiation levels in space. 

These are only a few of the many inventions that India is responsible for. India has risen to the 40th position in the Global Innovation Index as of 2022, which is a giant leap forward considering that it ranked 81st in 2015. It has also been ranked the number one innovator in Central and Southern Asia. Suffice it to say, India’s innovative future looks bright, and we can expect to see even more groundbreaking inventions from the country in the years to come.

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Header image courtesy of Freepik.


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