A research project that reiterates ink's commitment to sustainability - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Dr Raghav Rao began his research career in 2015 with the registration of his PhD project. Finally it culminated in 2022. The study focused on the environmental sustainability project, and the waste generated by the sugar industry that has a negative impact on the environment.

Dr Rao who is also managing director at Fujifilm Sericol India spoke to PrintWeek about his work.

08 May 2022 | By Noel D'Cunha

Rao: Successful commercialisation of the implementation of new oligomers will open new horizons

PW: Mr Raghav Rao, how excited are you about becoming Dr Raghav Rao?
Dr Raghav Rao:
The accomplishment of a doctorate degree and the accolades paved the way to my intellectual enlightenment. Therefore, I would like to rephrase the word excitement to fulfillment. After decades of relentless research work, the long-awaited moment of success has finally arrived. Holding on to patience and perseverance has withstood the test of time and has resulted in levels of satisfaction that goes beyond excitement.

PW: I attended your Viva Voce session. It was tough and gurelling.
Dr Raghav Rao:
The comprehensive thesis open defense could have been a daunting prospect for many, but I really enjoyed answering the rapid-fire questions posed by young experts, warding off all their queries. The experience of the intellectual churning of concepts, as well as extensive discussions on my PhD research with genuinely interested experts. It was a moment of gratification about my research work. I am deeply touched by my family members, loved ones, relatives, friends, and co-workers; warm gestures for their joyous celebrations and for making my achievement a dream come true moment.

PW: Your study focused on the environmental sustainability project, and the waste generated by the sugar industry that has such a negative impact on the environment.
Dr Raghav Rao:
Correct. This waste material was investigated, and Crotonaldehyde was identified and used in place of Formaldehyde, resulting in a unique Phenol resin development. At the same time, we investigated the chemical structure and properties of innovative resins, comparing them to Phenol Formaldehyde resin systems. During this process, we discovered that new resins have significantly better thermal and electrical properties than traditional PF resin systems. We have also identified a use for this unique resin system in the realm of industrial laminates (Formica and Bakelite type products) and also identified it as an efficient oligomer for UV curable ink systems.

PW: What happens now?
Dr Raghav Rao:
The above chemical structure, laminate application, and oligomer for UV curable have been patented and are in the grant stage.

PW: Who was your mentor and guide for this research?
Dr Raghav Rao:
Every dream needs an anchor or a mentor to turn it into a concrete reality, so my mentor Dr BS M Rao played a pivotal role in this application-based research. I am obliged to Dr BSM. Rao (Prof. HOD Chemistry, University of Pune), the completion of this research study could not have been possible. A debt of gratitude is owed to Dr. Vaishali Shinde for guiding me through this research journey. I am beholden by her immense support and guidance. She articulated the foundation of the literature review as the topic of research was fresh and no scholar had done any research on it, conducting a literature review was a daunting task. The review was conducted in accordance with Savitribai Phule Pune University's guidelines.
PW: Your research spoke about the role of PC and PRS resin for industrial laminates. Can you shed some light on it?
Dr Raghav Rao:
The phenolic resin industry is vital to India's economy. Because of their superior thermal and electrical properties, novel PC and PRC resins can be used in industrial applications. It has given consumers a bright future, and even though it is still in its infancy, it has a long way to go.
PW: Dr Rao: How different is it from conventional PF resin-based laminate? And what do you aim to achieve?
Dr Raghav Rao:
The laminates with PC were having high thermal and electrical properties due to unsaturation (double-bond presence between carbon atoms). These laminates have excellent flexibility, and thermal and insulation resistance properties. Conventional PF resins don’t have unsaturated groups in the polymers, and they don’t have similar characteristics. Hence this polymer-based resin is unique in nature.

PW: During your Viva Voce, you spoke at length about the ingredients for UV ink and coating. What is the future of UV?
Dr Raghav Rao:
UV inks have become one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry as printers learn about the benefits of UV technology. Much of the growth is driven by improved productivity and better performance characteristics. The major shift from solvent-based inks to UV environment-friendly inks reinforces our goal of sustainability. The only drawback of UV inks in India is that no one has yet invested in the production of UV raw materials. All the raw materials are sourced in China, Korea, Taiwan, and Europe. We are pleased to announce that India has developed an effective oligomer for UV curable ink systems as a result of our research. This is only the beginning, and scholars in the future will have a huge amount of potential to investigate.

PW: What are the types of conversations you have been having with your guide and mentors plus your colleagues during the research work?
Dr Raghav Rao:
Reiterating our commitment to sustainability with our extensive research, we should make history, establish a trend, set a standard, and edify and transform the society. Other researchers will be inspired by our research, which will lead to more research and a road map for others to follow. As a result, this vital project was chosen to help society and the sugar industry by resolving their problems of waste management and transforming them into sustainable resolutions.

PW: The world of printing ink is evolving. In this sense, what is the best piece of advice you’ve received during the PhD project?
Dr Raghav Rao:
We began with the assumption that this research had nothing to do with the printing business and instead focused on sustainability. To our amazement, we later advanced with UV curable printing solutions and oligomers that helped the printing sector. Ink manufacturers benefited as well. The explicit piece of advice I ever received was to think differently, we can explore, so keep looking. New information can emerge. And let’s fuel the purpose with passion.

PW: You mentioned during your presentation that raw materials are critical to sustainability. In this sense, does your project adhere to sustainability goals and regulatory issues?
Dr Raghav Rao:
To expand on the quote of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, "Much of India’s development agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Keeping these national aims in mind we strongly encourage everyone to make a commitment to continue working to repair and rejuvenate our ecosystems and make the world a better place to live. Environment conservation and restoration efforts of the Government through awareness, outreach programs, and scientific work are yielding tangible positive impacts on habitat rejuvenation and mitigation of climate change. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people's livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop biodiversity loss. It is not only about restoring depleted ecosystems, but also about restoring people's connection with nature and making; it lasts forever to achieve sustainable development goals.
PW: What next with the research? You mentioned there is a Phase II in terms of industry application ...
Dr Raghav Rao:
The next step is to tie up with the sugar industries for the successful commercialisation of this product and ensure that they make it viable. The application of synthesised Crotonaldehyde will be benefiting the UV printing industry and laminate industry for sustainable development. A step forward would be aligning with the sugar industries for their waste management to be converted as one of the raw material resources for the synthesis of modified Crotonaldehyde. So that we can use this product and mutually both the industries will be benefited. To bring success to this research will be prominent with this product to be offered in the market at a reasonable price.

PW: How will your findings benefit our industry in India?
Dr Raghav Rao:
Successful commercialisation of the implementation of new oligomers will open newer horizons and outreach to industries including laminate, industrial printing, and the sugar industry. Our research zeal is to continuously strive for improvement projects, safeguarding people and the planet.

Fujifilm Sericol India during the Covid years
The two years, 2020 and 2021 have included quite a few turnaround stories. Fujifilm Sericol India as a company has shown resilience to come through all challenges put forth during Covid and post-Covid and are proud that we pushed the envelope further in turbulent times and worked relentlessly. We lived our motto of never stopping and overcame our limitations and fear with the leap of faith and confidence. We recognised that to continue to build a bright future for our company, and our employees.

Company culture is the catalyst as it sets employee health and well-being at the centre of things. With a growing business that’s innovating and delivering high-demand products and services, we’re creating opportunities for employees today and for the next generation. Through our invention and innovation, our goal is to not only meet customers’ needs but to meet the needs of society. Our research scientists and R&D teams are on the frontlines of looking at the needs and challenges of our customers and society in general and applying their expertise and passion to develop products and services that solve these challenges.