Yasjraj and Yuvraj Bhardwaj are the co-founders of Zenith Vipers, an organisation meant to encourage school students to take up research projects. Together, the duo has come up with the prototype of a purifier that uses bajra to extract heavy metals from water.
Yuvraj and I are twin brothers. We are 17 years old and study in Class 12 in Delhi. We were interested in research work and science since we were in Class 6. We would watch TV shows on Discovery and National Geographic channels and connect with the featured scientists or anchors on Facebook and over emails – asking our doubts. Their replies encouraged us to take research more seriously. In Class 8, we completed six review papers in the field of astrophysics and were interested in exploring other science fields as well. In Class 9, we came across an article about a scientist using a plant to extract heavy metals from the soil. It was really interesting. Then we started thinking about ways in which we could extract metals from water.
At that time, we were more interested in selling the metals, earning money and purchasing a PlayStation for ourselves.
Heavy metals enter the water via different sources like atmospheric deposition, mining, agriculture, etc. These metals can lead to bioaccumulation. Scientists have been developing purification and extraction methods using a variety of techniques. Some of these techniques have been successful but are expensive or have detrimental effects on the environment. After about eight months of intensive research we learned that there are 143 plants that can remove heavy metals from water. It was then that we started thinking about water pollution. If we look at the issue, we recognise that the major problem is the increasing amount of heavy metal content in water bodies, which is leading to pollution.
We narrowed our research in terms of cost effectiveness and efficiency and tested with tomato, banana, apple, etc. Finally, we zeroed down to the pumpkin that showed an efficiency of nearly 74%. But somehow, due to the lack of knowledge about patents, we lost our rights on the pumpkin purifier. It was a really hard time because our work of nearly 1.5 years was wasted.
But we never gave up, continued our research, and came up with the best alternative in the form of Bajra (pearl millet). Its efficiency came out to be 98% and it also turned out to be a cost effective and efficient purifier. We prepared a complete paper and prototype and filed a patent. The lawyers’ demand for the patent fee was very high and impossible for us to afford. But this was before we learned how to file a patent independently and did that.
The Bajra purifier is meant for removal and extraction of toxic metals from the water in our rivers.
The purifier works in a simple way. We have to take contaminated water in a tank and just add Bajra powder (not fine) to it. Sedimentation starts taking place in some time and Bajra, beings lignocellulosic and carboxylic, adheres to the heavy metals on the surface of the water. It then settles down and the purified water is removed. The biomass at the bottom is treated with GCMS (Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry) to differentiate heavy metals according to their molecular weight. This way, we can also sell the heavy metals and the Bajra can be reused.
We have basically proposed two models of this project – one to operate at the city level and one for individual homes.
Till now, we have together worked on 22 research projects and filed for seven patents. We have also started an organization named Zenith Vipers to help young researchers in getting their ideas patented, codes of conduct, etc. There are two reasons why we started this organization –
1. We faced many problems during our research. Our teachers used to make us stand outside the class if we asked anything that was not in the curriculum, etc.
2. We have seen the concept of being a freelance writer, freelance photographer, etc. but what if we could have freelance researchers in our country!
(Written by Yasjraj Bhardwaj)
Know more about Zenith Vipers here.