Heated debate

Published: Monday 31 May 1993

-- A solar still, developed at the Centre for Energy Studies (CES) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi to make waste and saline water potable, has sparked a controversy concerning its inventor. According to a report in the British journal, New Scientist, the solar still's improved version was developed by Gopal Nath Tiwari of IIT, Delhi, and it has been nominated for an international award by the Salen Foundation and Swedish International Development Agency. But R C Tyagi, a colleague of Tiwari's at CES from 1978 to 1980, says he designed the original still and Tiwari pirated it.

CES head H P Garg confirms that in 1980, a team of scientists headed by M S Sodha and including Tyagi, Tiwari and others, developed a solar still with higher output than conventional stills. Subsequently, Tiwari reportedly made several improvements over the original design, such as substituting plastic for a galvanised iron vessel in the original still and published papers on the improvements in technical journals. The Swedish nomination, says Garg, is for the improved version, but "the principle behind the stills is the same".

Tyagi has now written to the Swedish authorities, enclosing proof of his work on the original model and mentioning that in 1978 he had received the Bhatnagar award for his work on the still and had published a paper on the still in 1979 in the journal Sunworld.

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