From harvesting rainwater and solar energy, to providing shade to passers-by – Ulta Chaata is one device that does it all.
“Rainwater is the purest form of water. It’s just that once it hits the ground, it does not remain pure anymore and requires high levels of filtration. We thought of collecting the water in its pure form and filtering it for drinking purposes,” says Samit Choksi, the co-founder of ThinkPhi, a green technology startup focused on developing products for a more sustainable tomorrow.
ThinkPhi’s flagship product called Ulta Chaata converts rain water into potable drinking water during monsoons, and produces energy with the help of solar panels in the dry seasons.
One unit of Ulta Chaata can collect 8-10 lakh quintal of water annually and capture energy with maximum peak power of 1.5 Kw. It is currently being used at over 50 locations across the country.
Ulta Chaata, Hindi for inverted umbrella, is a device that looks exactly like it is named. During monsoons, Ulta Chaata’s concave canopy captures rain water, which then trickles down to reach a filter. The water is filtered using active carbon filtration – a method that uses a bed of activated carbon to remove impurities. The filter reduces the turbidity of water flowing through it, thereby making it potable. “According to WHO, water below 5 Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) is potable water,” says Samit. A cluster of 15 Chaatas are connected to a Phi box with another fine filtration layer to remove bacteria, after which the water becomes usable.
It is best to install Ulta Chaata in clusters of over 10 units and each Chaata takes up about 1 square feet of area.
During dry months, solar panels fixed on the canopy harness clean energy that is stored in a battery within every Chaata. This further powers the Chaata and also supplies energy for the lighting system installed in the Chaata. The energy stored can be used to provide power backup for internal lighting on the premises where it is installed too.
Some of Ulta Chaata team members were recently invited by the Indian Railways to speak about how the product could benefit them. “What we realized is that while Ulta Chaata can provide clean water and energy it can also provide environmentally friendly shading at a lower cost in comparison to the archaic railway platform roofs, which are costly to install and maintain,” says Samit.
The Chaatas cost between Rs. 4.5 and 5 lakh and are warrantied for 10 years. But according to ThinkPhi, the amount of water and energy generated helps users get their returns in about a year.
“For people to believe in such a system we didn’t want to come up with another purification device that sits in your backyard and no one sees it. We wanted to make it look good to instil a sense of curiosity among people. That’s why aesthetics was an important part for us and Ulta Chaata looks like a well-designed piece,” says Samit, emphasizing that one of ThinkPhi’s major aims is to change behaviours and encourage people to use sustainable products.
The Phi box has sensors for the Chaata clusters to interact with the company and the users. The first one is to detect whenever the filter is about to clog due to dust and dirt and needs cleaning. It sends a message to ThinkPhi informing which device needs servicing.
The second sensor is meant to calculate the amount of energy and water collected. This further helps bring about behavioural change among people by showing them inspiring numbers. The other sensors measure water purity and also inform the company in case the lights on any of the Chaatas are out. Additionally, users can interact with ThinkPhi about using an app on their phones to register complaints, ask questions in case of any problems, etc.
Ulta Chaata is being used on campuses of large organizations in Bombay and Pune. The company is gearing up to set up devices in Gujarat and Bangalore too.
Bootstrapped in the beginning, ThinkPhi was started by Samit and his wife Priya Vakil Choksi in 2015.
Priya had finished her masters in sustainable design and graduation in architecture, while Samit has spent most of his time working on software in the development industry. The couple returned to India after working and studying in places like Singapore, London, Atlanta, and San Francisco. “After moving back here, we saw that the pollution and the increasing climate change are major reasons of concern in India. The one thing that struck us was that we get heavy rains here and yet all this water is getting wasted,” says Samit. Nature lovers since forever, the couple decided to do their bit for the environment by starting ThinkPhi. Today, their organization has grown to a team of 12 people.
“If you do not believe climate change is a problem caused by humanity’s desire to over consume then you would be guilty of living in denial…The world has always gone through periods of global warming and cooling which is an effect of natural causes. However, in this century we have gone through the biggest shift in the last 400,000 years and this time it is driven solely by man-made causes, us,” concludes Priya, talking about the current environmental condition.
Know more about Think Phi here.