NDSU faculty-supervised research team develops energy drink
It’s a long-distance research project that may someday be available in the cooler at your neighborhood supermarket.
Pushparajah Thavarajah, assistant professor in the NDSU School of Food Systems, is mentoring a group of students in Sri Lanka working on a nutrient-filled energy drink called “Dragalovera Crush.”
Thavarajah visited the College of Chemical Sciences in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka, July 28 to Aug. 12 to work directly with a four-member team of junior level students. During his time there, the team conducted dozens of product research interviews, seeking feedback from the public on what qualities people wanted in a beverage.
“More than a energy drink, it is a nutritious juice that consists of dragon fruit, aloe vera and honey as the main ingredients. All of these contain high nutritional value and have many other benefits,” explained student Nayantara Upeksha Dharmarathne from Dehiwala, who was the team leader. “Major problems in Sri Lanka are obesity, high cholesterol and cancer. We wanted to add ingredients that could be beneficial to reduce or prevent these conditions.”
According to fellow student Sudhair Kepi James from Colombo, the drink contains anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and fiber. “It has the fruity favor of dragon fruit with aloe vera pieces,” James said. “The product was created to serve the demand of the customer.”
Personnel at the Institute of Chemistry-Ceylon tasted the drink and their comments were recorded. Several adjustments were made, as the students learned through trial and error.
“It was not a smooth process,” said team member W. Shalani Fernando from Moratuwa. “What we prepared at first was a flop, but we didn't give up. We argued and there were many disagreements, but that helped us to come up with a better product.
“Overall, it was a fun-filled group,” she added. “It was a good encounter for all of us.”
The beverage prototype is already drawing the attention of Hilton-Sri Lanka and a major Sri Lankan agribusiness company. There also is a possibility an American company may enter the picture.
“With a bit more research, resources and hard work, we may be able to come up with a whole range of products, like a fruit-based energy drink for athletes, a nutritious drink for everyone or a slimming/diet drink,” said student Thisath Alhakoon from Kandy. “If we are able to develop this product to at least part of its full potential, then it may be of interest to more companies.”
Thavarajah’s connection with the College of Chemical Sciences, Sri Lanka, came about when J.N. Olean Fernando, the school’s rector, visited NDSU a year ago and saw what NDSU could offer his students. Now, Thavarajah is hopeful one or two members of the fruit drink research team will come to NDSU as graduate students.
“I believe students are creative and have a deep desire to apply their knowledge and skills to solve a societal problem,” Thavarajah said. “As educators, we just need to facilitate this process.”
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.