A DeTect device installed to check pipeline health 

An IIT Madras graduate, Tarun Mishra, along with his mentor, Dr. Krishnan Balasubramanian, has manufactured a device which can detect pipeline defects and damages. Tarun, the brain behind the ‘DeTect’ sensor, gave up on his admission to Yale University to develop a programme to prevent industrial disasters pertaining to lethal substances transported through pipelines. 

Tarun’s idea of developing a real-time monitoring system for pipelines dates back to the year 2011. Every sensor monitors a distance of 3 metres from its location, and a network of sensors can cover kilometres of pipelines to identify the leaks. These sensors can be installed without having to shut down or stop the production. “With the increase in population and industrialisation, pipelines are becoming critical and so is their monitoring. The ‘DeTect’ sensor is programmed to identify a potential damage in a pipeline and enable the workers to fix it before any untoward incident takes place,” said Tarun.

‘DeTect’ wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Dr Krishnan Balasubramanian, who is the IE&SR dean at IITM, and also Tarun’s mentor. “Dr Balasubramanian’s experience and technical ‘know-how’ gave the right direction to my vision of developing an integrated pipeline management system,” said Tarun, explaining the role of his mentor.

With the rising demand of ‘DeTect’ sensors, the student-professor duo cofounded ‘Detect Technologies’ in December 2015. “We aim to ensure that the engineering systems and components of ‘DeTect’ do not cause any harm to the pipelines. ‘The sensors are programmed to continuously identify the health of the pipelines,” said Prof Balasubramanian. After having worked with Tarun on this project for 5 years, Prof Balasubramanian is all praise for him, “Tarun was very determined to pursue this project. Amidst tremendous peer pressure and difficulties in choosing his career, he has risen above all the odds to turn his dream project into a reality.”

The cofounded company has been approached by many international players in the oil market. However, the success of the product is indebted to the financial assistance provided by IITM in the early stages of its development. “The initial fund of Rs 10 lakhs was provided to us by the incubation cell at IITM. The institute also helped us acquire funds amounting to Rs 65 lakhs from a leading refinery located in Jamnagar for product development. We successfully tested our product in the refinery and plan to meet their demands by April 2016,” said Tarun, who aims to cater to the needs of energy and nuclear sectors.

The role of the incubation centre is not limited to providing financial assistance. “We have mentors to help the students in their research work. Moreover, the incubation cell organises industrial lectures frequently so that the students get to build their own network by talking to experts from various fields,” said Smita Mohan, the spokesperson of the incubation cell at IITM. “We help a start-up in the registration process and ease their legal formalities in many ways,” she added.  Presently, there are around 95 start-ups registered with the incubation cell, out of which the professors at IITM are stakeholders in around 25 start-ups.

Detect Technologies has expanded from a two-member team to a 30 member team in the past one year. Keeping in view the avenues of their innovation, an aim to build an MNC that helps industrial development looks estimable. 

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