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Class 6 Chennai Student Uses Native Grass to Make ‘Herbal’ Anti-Pollution Mask!

Arul Srivastva is a student of Vana Vani Matriculation Higher Secondary School located in the IIT Madras campus.

A grass species native to India, the vetiver or Chrysopogon Zizanioides has many purposes to serve.

From stabilising soil and preventing erosion to the usage of oil procured from its roots in cosmetics and ayurvedic products, the unassuming vetiveru, as it is known in Tamil, is a wonder plant which has various uses across the country.

But did you know that this grass has air-purifying abilities that could be implemented to tackle air pollution?

We assume that you did not and neither did we until we chanced upon this Class 6 student from Chennai, whose path-breaking innovation of a nose mask with vetiver filters was capable of helping one breathe easily even amidst vehicular emission scale pollution!

Arul Srivastva is a student of Vana Vani Matriculation Higher Secondary School located in the IIT Madras campus.

Arul Srivatsva with his innovation. Courtesy: Dr M Vijaya.
Courtesy: Dr M Vijaya.

He has always been intrigued with plants and often spends time researching about the properties of any new plant he comes across.

Arul’s interest with nature sprouted young with homegrown inspiration straight from his grandfather, V Muthukrishnan, a civil engineer who began farming after over 35 years of government service and retired as the Chief General Manager of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS).

Arul’s mother, Dr M Vijaya, told The Better India, “This became even more pronounced when his school kickstarted an environment-centric initiative named ‘Greendom’ three years ago, under which projects and activities were given to students to help them connect with nature.”

In 2016, the eco-club entailed students to come up with ideas to tackle pollution, and a curious Arul’s mind started looking for ideas. Interestingly, vetiver had always been used at his home as an addition to water or hair oil for its medicinal properties, and suddenly he wanted to know what else this grass could do.

“After relentlessly researching about vetiver, Arul found that not only did it have air purifying properties but also that curtains were being made out of the grass to keep a tab on the pollutants in the air. This led him to wonder, why couldn’t the same methodology be incorporated to something like a nose-mask,” Vijaya explains.

That had been the beginning. But the grass had to be contained as a filter that could be used in a mask, solutions for which drove the entire family looking in all corners.

Arul weaving the vetiver filter on the balcony railing of his home and the final prototype. Courtesy: Dr M Vijaya.

“Because of the close semblance that vetiver had with bamboo, we zeroed down on weaving the grass and approached bamboo screen weavers to learn the process. Such was his passion in making the project a reality that Arul himself wove the filter with the help of the railing in our balcony. His project went on to receive great appreciation from his school authorities, who further motivated us to send his findings to the National Innovation Foundation with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Awards in mind,” she adds.

To further corroborate the functionality of Arul’s anti-pollution mask, his parents even took him to an automobile pollution-testing centre at a petrol pump in Thiruvanmiyur. She explains, “We noted emission readings from both two and four-wheeler vehicles before and after fixing the filter to their exhaust pipes. There was a stark difference in the readings which we sent out to NIF.”


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The Ahmedabad-based Foundation, which is an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, invites children from across the country to send their innovative ideas to motivate budding scientists and innovators.

“Our happiness knew no bounds when we received a letter from them after three months that said Arul’s innovation was accepted by NIF, which meant that his vetiver mask was credible and would be documented by the foundation,” Vijaya shares, happily.

Based on what the young genius has inferred from his study, the same grass filter when scaled up could play a defining role in filtering the polluting emissions from the chimneys of factories and automobile manufacturers.

Arul testing his vetri mask on the exhaust pipes of two and four-wheeler vehicles. Courtesy: Dr M Vijaya.

It is incredible how children like Arul come up with extraordinary ideas and innovations that incorporate rudimentary resources yet have a path-breaking impact. Given the frightening levels of air pollution in our cities, his idea could give a new lease of life to the countless people suffering from respiratory conditions and ailments.

To know more, you can reach out to Dr M Vijaya at 9840576485.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.