Biomed engineer offers solution to help Delhi breathe easy

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on July 08, 2018 Published on July 08, 2018

Green warriors Amit Bhatnagar and his wife Deepti Bhatnagar, co-founders of Swasthya Gram Foundation

If the city’s 3 m cars use his filter, the air will be much purer, says Amit Bhatnagar

In a rustic workshop in Gurugram, workers are busy fitting a longish contraption on the top of a car. Amit Bhatnagar (36), a biomedical engineer and founder of non-profit Swasthya Gram Foundation, says that it is a filter to tackle pollution. He says that if all 3 million cars in Delhi use this filter, it can make a substantial change in the city’s air quality.

Encased in metal with seven gradient filters covered with a mesh, the contraption, christened Shudhvayu, barely weighs two kilos. Two-and-a-half years ago, Bhatnagar, who was really bothered by the rising pollution in Delhi, started experimenting.

“I closely observed indoor air purifiers. They run on electricity. I realised that any purifier will have to run on energy. The ones we devise, which are fixed atop cars, work on mechanical energy derived from the car in motion. The device literally slices through air, and captures dust and particulate matter, PM 2.5 and PM 10, through its layers of filters,” Bhatnagar says.

He shows photos of an experiment that was conducted by him by placing the filter in a smoky polluted closed room with a lethal Air Quality Index of 1,500. Shudhvayu, in this case, was run on electricity. In 45 minutes, it cleaned up the air in the room by soaking in all the pollutants.

Huge potential

During a drive of 100 kilometres, the device is capable of absorbing up to 4 grams of PM10 and 12 grams of dust. If each of the 3 million cars registered in the national capital travel 100 km each, they could mop up 12 tonnes of carbon. Considering that these personal vehicles travel thousands of kilometres a year, the impact can be substantial.

“Collectively, it can make a huge change. Petrol pumps can double up as servicing centres for filters. It takes just two minutes to change the filter. But, this intervention will only work if it is adopted and scaled up by the government. Even though it directly affects the citizens, it is very difficult to convince them to pay for it,” said Bhatnagar. Currently, he is in the process of testing 500 such devices, which have been fixed upon the cars of those who volunteer to participate in the experiment. “Each filter is of a different pore size. The first layer is washable; the second layer, consisting of multiple filters, is collapsible and replaceable,” Bhatnagar explains, juxtaposing a used soot laden jet black filter against a vanilla white unused one.

“We call out for more people to volunteer. Drivers who take a fixed route through Delhi, Gurugram, Noida every day for work are preferable. We fix these filters atop their cars and after a run of up to 1,000 kilometres, we change their filters,” he says.

Crowdsourced funding

Bhatnagar left his high-flying job with Universal Studios in the US to return to India and started the non-profit outfit. Individuals from the world-over have donated close to ₹4,00,000 to the cause. He incurs a cost of ₹5,000 on each device, which is paid for from the donations.

The devices are fixed free of cost on volunteers cars. Volunteers too can donate to have the device fixed on any other car but their own. Swasthya Gram has tied up with a taxi fleet service and will install the devices on hundred taxis. To scale up his venture, Bhatnagar may require an investment of up to ₹5 crore and hopes to raise much of it by November.

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Published on July 08, 2018
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