Professor Anumakonda Varada Rajulu has been elected a Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) for his outstanding contributions in polymer science and green chemistry.
His work on larger molecules known as polymers using synthetic materials, first, and biodegradable nano composites, later which is continuing, has produced a variety of products that can be used in packaging, medical industry, and in anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-tumour treatments.
“ I take it as a recognition for the work done by me and also by my students whose good, hard work paved the way for it,” he says. Varada Rajulu’s life and work is testament to the fact that lack of resources can never be an obstacle for achieving excellence. The honour probably comes after a long gap for researchers in universities.
After joining as a lecturer in Physics at Sri Krishnadevaraya University, Anantapur, in 1977 and in 1985, he moved to polymer science and technology and retired as a professor there in 2010. He continued working there as an emeritus professor and later, got an emeritus scientist fellowship of CSIR, carrying out research on biodegradable polymers for packaging and medical applications.
Since 2015 August, he has been working as a visiting professor at Kalasingam University, Krishnankoil in Tamil Nadu, to help people and guide them in their research collaborations with Brazil, Malaysia, and the U.K.
His work includes developing, a silica-phenolic composite using phenolic resin as polymer matrix and synthetic glass fabric as reinforcement, in collaboration with ISRO, Tiruvananthapuram, This is used as a nose-throat part (which is near to the fuel compartment) of space launching vehicles (SLVs). Increasing environmental threats posed by synthetic polymers made him switch to finding out biodegradable polymers in nature.
“In nature itself we find many polymers which are known as bio-polymers as large in size and molecular weight,” he says. Everything in nature turned out be his muse and grist for his mill. After his retirement in 2012, he worked on cotton-cellulose biopolymers, and made films out of wheat protein isolate(WPI) from wheat flour, Soya protein isolate from Soya flour, and poly lactic acid(PLA) from sugarcane bagasse, using waste material such as egg shells, used tea leaves and powder, filtered coffee powder, waste leather buff etc as fillers in the polymer matrices.
For the past one year, he has been working on nano composite materials and on embedding them in polymer matrix itself. “We selected the traditional Indian Tulasi, neem, piñata, Terminalia catappa(badam) etc which have very good capacity to generate nano particles,” he says.
“He can be called the father of green composites in India, if I could say,” says Rajani Natarajan, a professor in the department of mechanical engineering in Kalasalingam University. Using simple techniques for fabrication processes is the hallmark of Varadarajulu’s work, in addition to publishing about 400 papers on composites.