IITians rally in fight against Covid through technology, fundraising

Students, alumni and faculty from the country’s premier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are rallying to help the country tide over the Covid wave, especially helping solve the oxygen shortage that has left many parts of the country gasping for breath.

Faculty and researchers from IITs have come up with ways to produce more oxygen. Alumni are putting their vast networks to use — especially in foreign countries — to raise funds. Students are volunteering their time and efforts to create databases for sourcing verified leads for oxygen, plasma and beds, while recent pass-outs are holding mentoring sessions online, the proceeds of which go to Covid-related charities.

A chemical engineering team from IIT-Delhi has been working with Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, to build prototypes of oxygen-generating equipment employing a method that uses readily available chemicals, said director Ramgopal Rao. They plan to build 1,000 such systems in the coming few weeks for various areas including villages. These don’t require electricity.

On Saturday morning, IIT-Delhi also donated 110 oxygen cylinders used in various labs to the local administration, said Rao.


IIT-Bombay has come up with a solution to convert pressure-swing absorption (PSA) nitrogen plants to generate oxygen. It can produce oxygen at a purity level of 93-96%.

Alumni from various parts of the world are stepping up, too. A group of five IIT-Kanpur alumni set up a fundraiser called Breathe India to procure oxygen concentrators for Delhi, and managed to raise ₹2.7 crore in five days. The group now plans to raise another ₹2-5 crore and has expanded to other cities in UP and Bihar.

Another group comprising two students and an alumnus of IIT-Bombay had started an initiative called HelpNow, which aims to cut the time it takes an ambulance to reach a patient in need. More than a week ago, they set up a campaign that has raised around ₹1.5 crore to equip ambulances with PPE kits and provide trips to the poor, said co-founder Shikhar Agrawal.

IIT-Delhi alumnus and US-based entrepreneur Sanjiv Goyal, in a Facebook post, has committed to ship 425 oxygen concentrators next week to India. He spoke to IIT-Delhi director Rao as well.

IIT-Madras students have created an all-India database to share contacts of plasma donors, with them working round the clock to help those in need, said Vipesh Singh, a master’s degree student in mechanical engineering.

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