Silicone Pioneer Ravindra D. Kulkarni MS’72 PhD’76 Elected to Indian National Academy of Engineering

Feb 12 2021 | By Jesse Adams

Engineer, entrepreneur, and environmentalist Ravindra D. Kulkarni MS’72 PhD’76 was recently elected to the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) as one of India’s preeminent engineers, engineer-scientists, and technologists. He was recognized for his “significant contributions in the areas of surfaces, interfacial chemistry, and silicone technology.”

Kulkarni, who earned both his masters and doctorate degrees in material engineering at Columbia, was the very first PhD student of Ponisseril Somasundaran, Lavon Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering. He went on to increasingly senior roles in research and development at Union Carbide, Exxon, and IBM, making significant contributions to the development of flat panel display laptop technology for laptop computers and high-capacity hard drives, among other technologies.

Kulkarni has founded and directed a number of firms in India, including Silicone International Products, Elkay Chemicals, Arklite Specialty lamps, and Aeropure UV Systems, in a broad range of fields from silicone fluid manufacturing to air, water, and surface UV disinfections that are relevant to controlling the spread of COVID-19.

He developed a silicone technology platform that launched a wide array of application-specific silicone products for both India and global markets. These include diversified applications ranging from agro-adjuvants to construction chemicals, petrochemicals, textile finishing, and release agents to personal care products including medications and pharmaceuticals. As his INAE citation noted, his “vision was to leverage Indian technical capabilities to secure a global business footprint. This was achieved by creating a highly effective innovation-centric organization that ensured environmentally sustainable processes and products at global standards.”

“I am very proud to have received this great honor,” said Kulkarni, who has earned numerous patents and published extensively. “Both Columbia University and Professor Somasundaran played crucial roles in building the foundation of the successes that followed my graduation. Professor Somasundaran’s teachings and solid fundamentals coupled with the broader environment of the university taught us that it is not only science and engineering but also ethics, passion, and an innovative spirit, and above all, hard work that was etched in our character, that are all critical for sustained success. I share this honor with Prof Somasundaran.”