A plant based water filtration system*

This is my final year project at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. There is a hindi saying: 'Drop by drop, fills an ocean'. Human beings have taken water for granted since ages. Ancient civilizations have prospered and perished owing to overuse and exploitation of water. I believe that history can repeat itself if we do not take the right measures. This project looks at our relationship with water, provokes and asks for new value systems to be set up before it is too late. My first piece of inspiration comes from my Diploma Film that I made in 2010 at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. The film talks about the lives and struggles of the people of the forests of Central India in the light of water and beliefs around it. Second inspiration comes from the theory of the Biotic Pump which I will talk about further on this page.


One of the outcomes of this project is a water filtration system. The proof of concept can filter a glass of water in 12 hours. The system itself doesn't need much maintenance and can turn into a self sustained biosphere when the user is unavailable. 


17 The biotic pump.jpg

I am inspired by the myths associated with water, the politics behind it and most importantly the science behind it. One concept that fascinated me the most is the Biotic Pump theory by two researchers named Anastassia Makarieva and Victor Gorshkov from the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia. This theory talks about how trees in the forests such as the amazon transpire millions of gallons of water into the atmosphere thereby creating a partial vacuum and bringing rain to this part of the world. In my opinion, transpiration is a miracle that can be harnessed effectively. Another inspiration is the practice of phytoremediation which is used to take contaminants out of the soil using plants.There are several other sources of inspiration such as ‘Flow of power: Ancient Water Systems and Landscapes’, written by Vernon Scarborough, Water by Steven Solomon and many journals and research papers.


The proof of concept is indeed a mini version of the amazon. It is a biosphere wherein the four key factors necessary for efficient transpiration namely heat, wind, light and humidity are maintained at an optimum level. The moisture laden air is strategically pulled out of the system and condensed to form pure distilled water. My early experiments involved simple potometers through which I could study the effect of temperature and light on the amount of transpiration.


This is more than just a filtration system. It is a new lifestyle where the appliance is a living breathing entity which sits in the living room right next to your favourite couch. I believe that such a product can bring about a mass movement in the way we look at appliances and value systems. The concept can be scaled up using bigger plants and trees that need more water and can be grown in contained environments. Several other scales can be explored and implemented, thereby paving the way for research and design to delve into more sustainable solutions and solve some of the most burning problems of our times. 


The project received very positive responses from a variety of visitors to the graduate show in London. Thousands of people of all ages and different backgrounds came to the displays in just 5 days. Hopefully it has made some impact on the folks who stopped and went through it.

I strongly believe that many a times the point of intervention can be at a more personal level so as to provoke and instil behavioral changes that would eventually reflect in a society. I want to continue working on this project. I want to reach out to people and engage communities in order to take this forward. I really hope that it becomes more than just a student project and brings about the changes that I set out to make in the beginning. I am thankful to all my friends, classmates, tutors and technicians for all the love, guidance and support that has helped me to realise this project. Special thanks to Audrey Gaulard and the wonderful folks at ICAH, KI Europe for all the support partly funding the project.

* DISCLAIMER: The water from Drop by Drop has been tested for quality using basic test kits and certified lab tests are yet to be performed. Thus, the designer strongly recommends that water from such a process should be consumed only after approval from certified labs.


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