Milk – the creamy liquid staple for your morning cuppa, in all its whiteness, might not be pure after all. “There are chances that you are drinking more of a toxic concoction of glucose, urea, boric acid and even detergent, than milk,” says Avisek Barla.

A final year BTech student of Biotechnology at IIT Madras, Avisek has developed a cost-efficient device that could detect adulterants in milk in a matter of seconds. Called a polymer chip, the device is a strip of paper made of reagents.

“The strip has been divided into zones and can detect as many as four adulterants in a single test.

Avisek developed a cost effective device
Avisek developed a cost effective device

FSSAI identifies about 33 adulterants in milk, and the device so far can detect the presence of glucose, urea, boric acid and detergent,” Avisek says.

The 23-year-old was recently conferred with the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation award at New Delhi for his innovation.

Avisek says he chose to work on this because he wanted to develop something that could have a functional value for the common man.

“The main intention behind the device is to curb adulteration at the source. The adulterant detection equipment that milk distributors use cost as high as `2 lakh, and the test is done only after the milk is procured from the farmer. On the other hand, the paper strip at a nominal cost will help a distributor test for adulterants before they buy milk from the farmer. One only needs to put a drop of the milk sample on the paper to get the results. If the paper changes colour, it indicates adulterants. At this juncture, it is the distributor’s job to reject the sample at the source” Avisek says.

As adulteration occurs on multiple levels starting from farmers to milk aggregators to distributors, Avisek adds it is also necessary for the tests to be done in households.

Avisek and his team are currently working on detecting other adulterants as well as percentage of other constituents such as fat, proteins and antibiotics in milk. “We are in talks with companies to launch the device,” he adds.