The chemistry of survival - The chemistry of almost everything (6/31)

Uploaded by OUlearn on 03.09.2009

Here's a fairly unusual start to a programme on survival.
This is a pH meter.
It's a fairly standard piece of laboratory equipment
but it's one that's invaluable
for the teaching of one of the key concepts in chemistry.
pH crops up all over the place in environmental chemistry
and it's equipment like this with the electrode that does the measuring
that's used routinely in process chemistry and industry.
If you want to teach chemistry, you really do need one of these.
India, Jahangirpuri, the slum district in the north of Delhi,
but an industrious slum.
This small factory is the visible sign of an initiative
to solve India's lack of teaching facilities in chemistry.
We all know the whole world is starved of resources.
Education doesn't have the kind of support which it should have.
But it's particularly acute in three-fourths of the world
where the pressure of population, the rising aspirations,
the greater ambitions, and all these are conspiring to create a situation
which is really very disturbing. In some ways, very disgusting.
I'm talking we as teachers. We are not delivering what we should be.
Professor Krishna Sane is trying to do something about this imbalance.
He's a building simple analytical instruments
for use in schools and colleges and the trick is to keep it simple
and cheap.
Every good general purpose pH meter will cost about 7-800 rupees
which is 30 US dollars.
Against a commercial pH meter which will cost ten times as much.
It's not only self-build that makes the equipment cheap.
Recycling plays a big part.
When we first made a pH meter it was cheaper than the glass electrode
which we're using.
So it was an absurd situation and I usually give the example
of having a necktie which is more expensive than the suit.
So we thought of looking for substitutes
and we tried many - the tungsten in the burned bulbs, the filament,
and we tried stainless steel and so on.
Then somebody had a bright idea, why not try carbon?
And the source? Old batteries.
This isn't only sound recycling, it's clever chemistry.
The carbon rod conducts electricity
and can be built into glass containers.
But thanks to a worldwide patent,
every carbon rod in every battery in the world
is made to an exact specification.
What you've got is an extremely uniform product for nothing.
India with her large population
has millions of school kids and college students.
A vast human resource. A country's future.
If chemistry is to play a part in that future
they need to be taught.
Doing that with the funds available is a major resource problem.
So what are they going to do about it?
More recycling.
You need equipment.
Keep your old fluorescent tubes and turn them into chemical glassware.
Everything has been fashioned from discarded glass.
What they're doing is making junk work for them.
And more. It teaches an ethos, a way of life.
Unless this culture comes in schools, that we train them to recycle,
we train them to economise,
we train them not to throw things down the drain,
we train them to be safety conscious,
how are we going to expect them to be good citizens in the world tomorrow?
Now that's what I call the chemistry of survival.
And it's a million miles away from this next guy.