Two years ago, while volunteering with the Indian Red Cross Society, Shubh Agarwal, 17, got the chance to visit Pimpri village near Pune. "When a water tanker arrived, the villagers ran behind it with buckets. I learnt that the tanker came to the village once a week and sometimes, once in 10 days," says the Vile Parle resident, who was 15 then and studying in Std X at RIMS International School.
Volunteers help 17-year-old Shubh Agarwal transport his invention, Aquarius: The Rainmaker, to Wada, a town about three hours from Mumbai. The device is installed at Agarwal’s factory plot in Wada. Pics/ Pradeep Dhivar
The next year, he moved to The International School Bangalore, but the plight of the villagers stayed with him and inspired him to design Aquarius – The Rainmaker.
The towering device, that cost Rs 22,000 to put together, is currently installed at Agarwal's father's factory plot in Wada, a town three hours from Mumbai. It works by harnessing the humidity in the air and converting it into water droplets. "At any moment, the atmosphere contains 37.5 million billion gallons of water, in the form of invisible vapour. If we are able to extract even a fraction of it, the world's water crisis could be addressed," says the teenager, throwing up a number of stats from a research paper he wrote this January.
Sample this: By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world's population living in water-stressed regions.
The Aquarius anatomy
It has taken Agarwal two years to perfect the model under the mentorship of Dr Soumya Sri Bhattacharya, who helped him with technical details, including guidance on materials to use. "Initially, I used only two solar panels, but later, I added two more, so the device works through the night as well," Agarwal tells mid-day, pointing to the 6V solar panels attached to a 12-feet-long copper pipe.
The panels are connected to a rechargeable battery that helps power a CPU fan fitted at the mouth of the 16-gauge pipe, which stands erect at the installation site; half of it buried in a seven-and-a-half feet deep pit in the ground. When the humid air contacts the metal, it condenses to form water droplets. "The temperature under the ground is 10-12 degrees lower than in the air above. Also, copper has a relatively higher thermal conductivity than aluminium. So, it can reach a lower temperature faster," explains Agarwal.
The remaining air exits through another copper pipe connected to the first one. The gravity does its work and droplets are collected in a bucket attached to the copper pipe, placed under the ground. The water can then be removed using a hand pump.
The crowdfunding route
"WHO estimates the per person daily drinking water requirement to be 1.9 to 2 litres and at present, Aquarius can generate 4.2 litres of water in 24 hours," Agarwal says, explaining that the device is capable of this providing water for two persons every day.
He also plans to create replicas of the model and install them in villages across Maharashtra, starting with Pimpri. For that, he has launched a R65,000 crowdfunding campaign on Ketto.org, which is live for another 10 days. "The funds will also help me further my research and increase the efficiency of the model."
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"This device works on the area’s humidity, and so, we’ll be able to generate more water in regions with high humidity levels. However, the design can be modified to enhance the cooling procedures and make it usable even in dry climate. I have no doubt that this device will be useful, not only in ruralMaharashtrabut across the globe, once Shubh finishes mapping the humidity levels."-- Dr Soumya Sri Bhattacharya
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