Bengaluru-based startup Devic Earth is tackling air pollution by using pulsed radio waves to cause dust and pollen to settle down, thus cleaning the air for everyone
In 2008, a young cardiologist moved from the US to India in hopes of serving his country. Little did he know what lay ahead of him when he witnessed the tragic death of a 32-year-old taxi driver on the operating table during an angioplasty. The taxi driver had succumbed to a heart attack because of continuously inhaling polluted air. This incident propelled Dr Srikanth Sola to set up a team of scientists and engineers who, after ten years of research, from 2008 to 2018, came up with an answer for ambient air pollution—Devic Earth’s Pure Skies.
With a background in biomedical engineering and knowledge of MRI scans, Dr Sola founded Devic Earth in 2018 with the idea that radio wave pulses, which had earlier been used to tackle water pollution, could be used to solve the problem of air pollution.
The Bengaluru-based startup’s flagship product, Pure Skies, works on pulsed Wi-Fi technology to improve air quality and can cover an area of up to a 250 to 500 metres radius outdoors or indoors, without any maintenance. The company claims to achieve a downward trend in the pollution levels within a few months across large areas.
Pure Skies has a receiver antenna attuned to the Wi-Fi spectrum (2.4 to 2.5GHz), a pulse generator, PCB boards, and a solar power supply. The device’s transmitter emits rapid radio pulses that are amplified by the receiver to cover a large area. This creates an electric charge field that bipolarises microscopic pollutant particles (PM2.5 and PM10) in the air such as dust and pollen. The bipolarised particles get attracted to each other causing them to become heavier and settle down once they have picked up the charge.
“The charge is acquired by particles in this field according to their electrostatic potentials. This is a natural process. Pure Skies accelerates the natural process of agglomeration and dry deposition (settling of pollutant particles),” explains Dr Sola.
With a team of 20 people, Devic Earth brought down the size of the device to weigh six kilograms, from the initial weight of 200 kilograms, by using miniature versions of different components used. “We’ve also improved the software to make it more efficient. All our units are solar-powered and don’t need to be connected to the mains,” Dr Sola adds.
The company has successfully planted 27 machines in five different hotspots in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh as well as internationally in Chile, South America. “One machine will cover a radius of 250 to 500 metres. This way we are able to cover large areas by putting them on building rooftops,” Dr Sola says.
The startup customises the antennas and some of the components with help from external partners. It sources a few EU-certified components from Lithuania which, the startup claims, are cheaper. The company works with manufacturing vendors to build the housing and PCB boards and programs each unit once it reaches the Devic Earth plant. It is currently looking to partner with local manufacturers in Bengaluru for manufacturing IP65 (for protection from rain) or even higher standard enclosures to protect the components and keep them safe and dry.
Dr Sola believes that funding is like oxygen for a startup. The company raised $1.4 million from Singapore-based investment firm Blue Ashva Sampada Capital in January 2021. The startup was incubated under the Karnataka Innovation Technology Society (KITS), which referred it to labs that could certify the technology. “It’s not cost-efficient for a small startup to create a huge testing lab on its own. It’s too expensive. With the help of KITS, we’ve been able to access testing labs and certification facilities for our ongoing research and product development,” clarifies Dr Sola.
As a part of its future projects, the company is working on a carbon capture technology for ambient carbon dioxide, which is one of the main greenhouse gases. It is also coming up with a personal air purifier that would be the size of a car keychain. “You can carry it with you and clip it onto your backpack, purse, or briefcase. You can have an air purifier with you wherever you go!” exclaims Dr Sola.
The company is currently looking at expanding all across India, and internationally into the Middle East, Europe, and North America.