IIT Grad Innovates a Smart Plant That Purifies Air in Your Room and Keeps you Healthy
Rapid industrialisation has polluted three essentials that are absolutely necessary for us to survive — the food we consume, fresh water, and the air around us. There are many solutions for two of those – including things like water purifiers, eating organically grown consumables, or growing a kitchen garden.
Over the last few weeks, Delhi has been experiencing critical air quality issues. While residents are facing symptoms like cough and breathing difficulties, to ensure people avoid venturing out, even schools have been closed.
There are very few real solutions for the air we breathe. Even the ones that do exist are usually expensive or slow. But, new ones are being created all the time. And there is a growing focus on long-term fixes, rather than bigger and bigger filters over our faces or windows.
One such idea to improve the quality of the air in urban settings is by an alumnus of IIT Kanpur. He has invented a ‘Smart Bio-Filter’ flowerpot named ‘UBreathe’. This amplifies the natural air purification process all around us.
“Air-purifying plants absorb air from the atmosphere, which goes to the root zone where the pollutants are purified. The oxygen that is generated is expelled by the plant. But, this process is slow as the flowerpot constricts space for supplying air,” says Sanjay Maurya, the co-founder of UBreathe.
Innovating the plant purifier
A few years ago, Delhi faced a serious pollution crisis. The levels of harmful gasses and pollutants in the atmosphere were 20 times higher than the safe limits issued by the World Health Organisation.
There were several causes for this – the growing volume of vehicular traffic, industrial development, the burning of crops and waste, and the burning of firecrackers during festivals. People living in the entire National Capital Region were forced to wear masks and make drastic lifestyle changes such as following an odd/even driving scheme to ensure pollution levels were kept under control.
Sanjay Maurya, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from IIT-Kanpur, was pursuing his MBA at the Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi. He wanted to find a solution that allowed both households and commercial establishments to purify the air inside their walls at least.
So he connected with some colleagues from a startup where he worked briefly, and reached out to some seniors from IIT Kanpur. Together, they conducted basic ground research and realized that the only air purifiers available in the market were natural plants or artificial systems that were expensive.
Additionally, one plant can only purify a limited amount of air. If a resident wishes to purify polluted air in a regular-sized room, within a few hours or minutes, they would need a minimum of 10 plants or more.
This brainstorming led them to develop UBreathe, a smart bio-filter that combines air-purifying plants with technology to amplify the output of purified air.
About the device
UBreathe has three components: The plant, a smart flowerpot, and microbe-enriched soil. The flowerpot is powered by residential electricity, and the air is filtered by a method known as ‘bio-filtration’. Air from the surrounding is absorbed by the plant and is pushed into the soil where the root zone takes care of suppressing the pollutants and also exhales clean air.
Once this is done, the UB unit discharges the clean air through an outlet.
The smart flower pot does not have any extra filters, but simply amplifies the purification process. There is an axial fan that creates a suction pressure inside the flowerpot, and releases purified air, formed at the roots, through the outlet at a faster pace. To ensure that the purification at the roots happens faster, the soil is enriched with additional microbes, a secret concoction that breaks down the pollutants.
During testing of the device under lab conditions, it was found that air filled with Particulate Matter 2.5 (pm 2.5) at the level of 220, was reduced to a level of 20 within 15 minutes. The Air Quality Index also improved from a staggering 285 to a safe level of 30 within 20 minutes.
There are five varieties of air-purifying plants the team has tested with, and all of them are grown in their in-house nursery located in Gurgaon. The number of plants required in one more depends on the size. But one UB unit is sufficient to purify air within 15 mins in a 200 sq ft room.
The consumer need not water the plant regularly as there is a built-in water reservoir with a capacity of 150ml which is sufficient for one month. Sanjay says that the device supplies water to the roots whenever it gets too dry.