Most of us know Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi as a firecracker manufacturing hub. Located approximately 550 km from Chennai, it produces nearly 95 per cent of the country’s crackers.
Which is why, a conversation with M Ravishankar, a resident of the infamous town, comes as a surprise. The 44-year-old is working towards a solution to combat air pollution—one that is affordable, sustainable and easy to adopt.
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“Yes, Sivakasi is famous for its firecracker market, and while the damage done by them is undeniable, you will find that vehicles are the biggest cause of increased air pollution,” says the 44-year-old.
Indeed, vehicular emissions are the biggest contributors to the presence of harmful components like PM 2.5, in the air. Studies have found that 16 to 19% of the PM 2.5 concentrations are attributed to vehicular exhaust.
To put things in perspective, according to ‘Airpocalypse’ a report by Greenpeace India published in 2017, outdoor air pollution is responsible for 1.2 million deaths every year in India and that it is not a cause of concern in Delhi alone.
Additionally, data collected by the organisation from different state pollution control boards showed that there is no place in the country that complies with the air quality standards prescribed by the WHO and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
So, what is the solution?
“When I found out about the actual source of widespread air pollution, I wanted to come up with a solution that would be feasible than what is already available in the market,” he begins.
Ravishankar has created a filter that can be attached to the exhaust pipe of vehicles. This device comprises of natural components inside that filter harmful emissions like Carbon Monoxide.
The body of the cylindrical filter is made from steel, and there are different, air-purifying layers inside—a wire mesh followed by the activated charcoal and then coconut choir. Once the vehicular emissions pass through the filter, the filtered air is let out through the tiny pores which form the base of the filter.
“I experimented with different natural products and found that activated charcoal is an effective component which can trap all the toxins when it passes through it,” he mentions.
Ravishankar ensured that no trees were cut in the process of making coal, and used coconut shells for this purpose.
“The device can be used for about four to five months and will be sold from Rs. 140 onwards (depending on the vehicle) once I get all the necessary licenses,” he smiles.
To check the effectiveness of the device, he approached N Jeyakumaran, the Dean of Research at the Virudhunagar Hindu Nadars’ Senthikumara Nadar College. “The nano dimension of the toxic particles is larger than the components on the filter. Because of this, the device can effectively reduce the toxicity of the emissions by 60 to 70 per cent,” says Jeyakumaran.
The man from Sivakasi has now applied for patents for the filter he came up with in August 2017 and is waiting for approval before he starts manufacturing the device commercially.
About the creator and his other inventions
Ravishankar has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering and has managed his family’s spice business in the past.
“My family always believed that I should have some professional training before taking over the family business, and I loved computers. This is why I chose to study what I did,” he says. Following this, he built up his own business where he sold gemstones.
Although he never put his science degree to professional use, he explains that he has worked on several different projects around a similar theme—the conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment.
In August this year, using similar components, the inventor, who is deeply inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam, created a room air purifier, a desktop air purifier, and a portable air purifier.
The room air purifier comprises coconut coir, activated charcoal, bamboo leaves and tulsi leaves arranged in layers. There are fans attached on the two ends of the box-like device which captures the room’s air and lets out the purified air back into the room. In the case of the portable air purifier, one needs to breathe the air that passes through the device.
“In the future, I hope to come up with more solutions that can help improve the conditions we live in,” concludes Ravishankar.
Know more about the ATL Tinkering Innovation Marathon here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)