Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science

VT, India ICTAS Innovation Center

GUSS units

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and Marg CEO GRK Reddy at the 2010 MOU signing.

International engagement is becoming an imperative for higher education, given the pace of globalization and the flow of people and ideas across geographical borders. Virginia Tech’s Strategic Plan 2012-18 calls for Virginia Tech (VT) to position itself to further develop a distinctive profile as a progressive and internationally recognized research university. As part of the strategy to realize this goal, the university decided to establish a strong educational and research presence in India in partnership with MARG Ltd, one of India’s fastest growing infrastructure organizations.

On 28th May, 2013, a new entity-- Virginia Tech MARG Swaranabhoomi, India Trust (hereafter called the Trust) was established to carry out the broad mission of fostering science, technology, and innovation to solve global problems facing humanity. Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), a premier research center, has led the effort to initiate and develop a dynamic and meaningful research program focused on a few key technologies under its newly-forged Virginia Tech, India ICTAS Innovation Center (VT, IIIC). This Center was formally inaugurated on May 23, 2014 by Virginia Tech President, Dr. Charles W. Steger, and MARG CEO, Mr. GRK Reddy.

“This is a historic moment for Virginia Tech,” said President Charles Steger. “Virginia Tech, India will create a place in India where engineers, students, and high tech science professionals from the United States and India will work together and learn from each other.”

Drawing on the success of its parent institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, “the creation of VT, IIIC marks an important new step in unleashing innovative ideas and fostering cutting-edge technologies through collaborative research for advancing the cause of a sustainable future,” said ICTAS Director Roop Mahajan. He hopes that people will look back someday and say, in the words of Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory, “this was where the future, which is what we now call the present, was conceived and designed.”


The Center will share and advance the vision of ICTAS to be a premier institute to advance transformative, interdisciplinary research for a sustainable future.


  • To position the Trust as an international leader in the confluence of critical technologies for raising the Human Development Index in developing countries, especially in India;
  • Create seamless building blocks of fundamental and applied research with emphasis on translation to industry; and
  • Advance Virginia Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).


With the global population expected to rise to approximately 8.3 billion by 2030 and as many as 1.4 billion living below the poverty line, meeting the basic needs of energy, clean water, food, medicine and education without adversely affecting the environment is a major problem. In other words, creating a sustainable future may be the grand challenge of our times. To this end, we have chosen to develop and advance research in the following three areas: (i) Sustainable Energy, (ii) Nanotechnology, and (iii) Wireless communication. It is our belief that powered by the ethos of sustainability, our research endeavors in these fields may provide answers and ultimately a sound foundation for improving the living conditions of future generations across the globe.

Sustainable Energy

Virginia Tech’s Center for Energy Harvesting Materials & Systems (CEHMS)—an Industry-University Cooperative Center, supportd by an industry consortium and the National Science Foundation—will serve as a model. Buildng on established, world-wide partnerships, the Center will ensure that it is primed for growth and impactful interactions with local industry. Researchers at the Center will develop and advance solutions to harvesting energy in new ways from the waves, sun, and wind, as well as from mechanical vibrations such as those produced by railroad trains. Another promising research area focuses on converting waste-- agricultural, industrial, household, and medical-- to energy.

Below is a sampling of the energy research projects planned to be conducted at the Center. Powered sensors will open the pathway to distributed power sources. Research will demonstrate harvesters utilizing single and multimodal conversion mechanisms, adaptive energy harvesting circuits, intelligent energy management systems, and conformal storage media.

Low speed wind energy will bring power to remote households and schools. Research will enhance low speed turbines by optimizing their aerodynamic, material, and structural performance. Nonconventional blade shapes will enhance the lift coefficient. Tests will be conducted in the Center’s wind tunnel facility.

Flexible, wearable dye-sensitized solar cells provide a low cost alternative to silicon PV cells, but obtaining a high conversion efficiency on a flexible plastic substrate is a challenge. Planned research will utililize nanostructures, blocking layer, up-conversion layer, and solid-state electrolytes to further develop this source of renewable energy.

Thermoelectric energy harvesting involves capturing the electromotive force created when two dissimilar materials are joined, and a temperature difference is maintained between them. Thermoelectric devices can include anything from a wireless sensor to a wine cabinet. Researchers will develop inexpensive materials and engineer them for optimal performance and versatile temperature applicability.

Waste to Energy research solutions will be designed for local waste sources. Current effort is aimed at generating cooking gas from municipal solid waste at greater than 90% conversion efficiency. An alternate pathway being developed for household waste features a microbial fuel cell and nano-fiber filters that will help purify waste water and generate electricity. In parallel, on-going research at a partner site is working toward converting agricultural, especially poultry, litter and waste to biofuel oil.


Of the many possible areas of research in nanotechnology, nano-fibers will be the initial focus of research. Emphasis will be on designing and building a novel melt blowing facility to produce nonwoven webs that contain nanolayers within each microfiber. The overall process is attractive from an environmental standpoint since it does not use solvents (i.e., it is a green process). One of the main application focus areas will be air and water filtration, so that one can take advantage of the high surface area of the fibers. This research will have immediate value to India through the development of higher efficiency air filters for clean air and better availability of clean drinking water.

Cognitive Radio Communications

At the heart of this research focus is the design, development and deployment of a mixed indoor/outdoor cognitive radio network testbed. A Cognitive Radio Network test-bed (CORNET@VT-India) will be deployed at the Center, consisting of multiple fixed radios installed in the ceilings of a building and several fixed and mobile radios outside the building. It will enable research and development in a wide variety of areas within wireless communications that include cellular communications, dynamic spectrum access, white-space technologies, wireless distributed computing, position location, wireless networking, antennas, cloud computing, and signal processing. These research activities will in turn influence economic development in India through the infusion of these technologies for rural broadband access, better cellular communications coverage, and in general an enhanced wireless communications infrastructure.


The 6,000-square-foot center sits inside the Amrita Research Park, Swaranabhoomi, within a two-hour drive from Chennai, India’a fourth largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu. It houses state-of-the-art laboratories for the reel-to-reel fabrication of flexible dye-sensitized solar cells, a wind tunnel to test the efficiency and performance of wind turbines, a spectroscopy laboratory fitted with a field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope, a sintering laboratory to fabricate piezoelectric devices and a general purpose machine shop.

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ICTAS (MC 0193)
Kelly Hall, Suite 410, Virginia Tech
325 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061

(540) 231-2597