“Necessity is the mother of all inventions” is a saying K Akhtar Ali, a mechanic, put it to use and built an eco-friendly, affordable AC that brings down the room temperature by nearly 10°C! All for his ailing wife in the insufferable heat of Tamil Nadu.
The narrow streets of Lalgudi road in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, will lead you to a small bike garage. The shop owner, K Akhtar Ali, is a unique guy. He may be a tire mechanic by profession but experimenting and innovating are what keeps his motor running.
He has on display all the district and state level prizes he has won over the years. From an air-transfer device approved by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) to an anti-puncture powder that sells like hotcakes, Ali has had a streak of innovations to boast.
“She was admitted in the hospital where there were ACs, and when we brought her home after her surgery, she was visibly uncomfortable in the heat. She insisted that we buy an air conditioner for the home, but I am a simple man with a humble income. How could I afford an AC that costs thousands of rupees? But of course, I wanted her to be happy and comfortable at home, so I decided to experiment and build one myself,” tells Ali.
With materials as simple as water bubble cans, a bamboo basket, a pipe, motor, and vetiver grass, he began to work his innovator mind and worked on a model.
The tops of the bubble cans are cut and filled with stones, bricks, and 12 liters of water. A bamboo basket containing vetiver grass went on top of the cans.
A thin pipe ran through the two bubble cans and was attached to the motor. Together, they would set the water in motion and let it flow from one can to the other.
The pipe was arched over the vetiver grass and had holes to let the water drip over it. A ceiling fan in the room helps the cool airflow through the air.
This device of two cans can go on for days before you have to refill it. The only fee is the electricity that the motor uses.
In Ali’s shop, this device can maintain a temperature of about 27°C when Trichy is burning at 38°C. The cost of the AC – Rs 1,500, but the respite for his wife – priceless.
“By the age of 10, I had to give up my education and do odd jobs to bring home money. I worked in some local garages and started saving money so I could open a cycle repair shop by the time I was 20,” he says.
He adds, “I believe that with discipline, anything is possible. So for the past 40 years, I have been working religiously in my shop. I try to experiment with innovations that could help me either in the shop or at my home.”
“I just want my innovations to be satisfactory. I have not completed my education, but I try to bring in experiences and observations from my daily life to better utilisation. Take the AC for example. I knew that vetiver grass is cool because it is used to cool body temperatures when a person has a fever. So I improvised from there.”