19 Sep 2018 Story Air

Young Champion of the Earth, winner for Asia Pacific

Arpit Dhupar is one of two Young Champions of the Earth for Asia and the Pacific. The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro.

He is co-founder and Chief Technical Officer at Chakr Innovation, an enterprise which aims to solve the problem of air pollution through new technology with the Chakr Shield devise, verified by Indian Institute of Technology and accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories.


Clearing the air: recycling ink from soot

One hot day, I was drinking sugar cane juice from a vendor by the side of the road. Such vendors are common in Delhi and they use diesel engines to power their sugar cane crushers. I watched as the vendor attached a pipe to the engine exhaust, and as he worked, the wall behind him started to turn black.

It occurred to me: why not intentionally capture the pollutants to paint walls – and paper – instead? Globally, 90 per cent of black carbon emissions from the transport sector are from diesel vehicles. Living in the city of Delhi, it became more apparent to me every day how dangerous air pollution is.

Since my childhood I have been fascinated by science, and as an engineer, I believe it is my responsibility to give back to society: to help solve global problems. I was shocked to learn that 90 per cent of air pollution-related deaths happen in low and middle-income Asian and African countries. The vision of the sugar cane vendor stuck with me, and while the sources of air pollution are scattered, it’s clear that all diesel generators are a major cause for concern.

From soot to ink

Chakr in Hindi means ‘cycle.’ When I founded Chakr Innovation, I set out to complete the carbon cycle, so that it doesn’t end up in the atmosphere but can be captured and used again. Now, we have devised a novel technique which captures 90 percent of particulate matter from diesel engines, with no impact on the engine’s efficiency.

Our device, the Chakr Shield, is a novel solvent-based technology, which fits on a diesel exhaust. It works by cooling soot particles, then capturing them as the gas passes through a series of meshes and a special solution. The meshes are cleaned automatically in real-time, and soot is collected at the bottom of the exhaust in a collection bin.

The carbon captured in this process is transformed into a non-toxic ink pigment – the same quality as that used in the printing industry. Since Chakr Shield works in real-time, engine efficiency is not affected. The self-cleaning device consumes less than one per cent of the engine capacity when it is running. A safety valve is also fitted, activating immediately if back-pressure unexpectedly exceeds a certain limit.

The shield captures particulate matter in the exhaust from the moment an engine is switched on – the point at which soot emissions are usually highest. Our device ensures that exhaust particles meet European standards even when most soot is emitted. 

Clearing the air

Since diesel generators are used in almost every building, shop, hospital and construction site as a power backup, emission from diesel generators will continue to pose a serious health threat. We believe we can create pioneering and sustainable technology which can be rolled out on a large scale across India to combat the grave threat posed by pollution in our cities.

Next, we plan to deploy our device in chimneys used by small scale industries. This journey has been tough, but what has kept us going is the belief that we can have a huge social impact. By weighing the amount of soot already captured, we calculate we have already captured 500 kilograms of particulate matter – enough to save an estimated 600,000 individuals a year from breathing in dirty particulate matter from diesel engines.

Our technology ensures that collected particulate matter is not disposed of, or burnt, but used as a raw material for inks and paints, thus effectively closing the carbon circle. We are well on our mission to develop and implement technology which contributes to a cleaner environment and improved health.

Follow the Young Champions of the Earth journey on social media #YoungChamps.