Potable water is scarce, especially in far-flung areas. And for a population of over 1.3 Billion people, an increasingly precious commodity. Fact: 25% Indians don’t have access to clean drinking water and over 70% of our water bodies are polluted. Access to clean water can change lives and a cost-effective way to do it would be a boon for generations to come.
This is a story of two teenagers, Yuvraj and Yashraj Bhardwaj, who have made it a habit to not just mindlessly watch science programs on TV, but to use their curiosity and scientific mindset to question, research and work on 22 projects, and over time, file 7 independent patents, one of which is their game-changing water purification idea.
Then in Class 9, Yuvraj and Yashraj were fascinated to learn about phytoextraction - a natural process where plants remove heavy metals from soil and water and the fact that heavy metals commonly enter our water sources via atmospheric deposition, mining, industry and agriculture. These metals make the water increasingly toxic thanks to bioaccumulation. While scientists all over the world have been developing purification and extraction methods using a variety of techniques, most are expensive or eventually cause more harm than good.
After 8 months of research, they found that over 143 plants remove metals from water. Narrowing down the list, they shortlisted tomato, banana, apple, and eventually, pumpkin as it demonstrated a 74% efficiency, but by the time they could figure how to file a patent, they lost the patent rights to the Pumpkin Purifier.
Disheartened but determined not to give up after 18 months of work, Yuvraj and Yashraj redoubled their efforts and discovered that Bajra (Pearl Millets) has high cellulose content and carboxylic acids. Also, Bajra is a hardy plant, is cheap to grow and available around the world. This time, high lawyer fees were a deterrent, so they decided to file the patent application independently and succeeded.
With an astonishing 98% effectiveness, the Bajra Water Purifier is as simple as it is cost-effective. Pour the filtered water contaminated with heavy metals into a holding tank. Add coarse ground Bajra to it. Being lignocellulosic and carboxylic, the Bajra attaches itself to the heavy metals and eventually thanks to the process of sedimentation, sinks to the bottom of the tank.
The tank has outlets to transfer clean water from the top layer for human consumption, and the biomass at the bottom for further processing. The biomass is treated with GCMS (Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry) to differentiate heavy metals according to their molecular weight. The large scale, city model can even sell the heavy metals and profit from it. While the smaller, home models can get potable water quickly and easily.And the best part? The cleaned Bajra can be dried and reused again.