The Ganguly Living Air Filter : Development and Place in the Science of Whole Ecosystem Technology (Part-1)


In this paper I describe the development of the concept of living screens for air quality improvement and purification and describe the Ganguly living air filter and how it works.  After discussing the traditional Indian approaches I describe in detail the development of ideas for whole plant treatment of noxious chemicals in the indoor air and then the whole ecosystem technologies from the pioneering workers in the American and Australian and Canadian schools and the convergence of their ideas. After discussing the mechanisms involved I describe some of the current trends in research and describe the directions that the technologies might develop.



When you look at Indian houses you find various plants in the glass-free windows and balcony screens. This was the motivation for the innovation on

Figure 1. Indian Balcony Iron Grating with Plant Pot Holders

this wonderful project which was created in Calcutta around 40 years back. I was inspired by father Mr.Murari Ganguly a famous engineer in India and the founder of the family Engineering Consultancy who in 1963, had created veranda ironwork screen design (figs 1, 2.) to hold plant pots and give room for the full growth. This produced a fresh and purified air stream through our well ventilated home.

Figure 2.  Plants in Place.

My father Mr. Murari Ganguly, my mother Mrs.Anuradha Ganguly and my sister Ms.Subhadra Ganguly was working, as every Hindu, from a background influenced by Ayurvedic medicine in which many of the plants grown by householders have medicinal and purifying properties: a tradition which reaches back to the more than three thousand year old origins of the Rig Veda (Avari, 2007; Flood, 1996). In the West, there has now been a parallel development in the last half of the twentieth century with the realization of the importance of plants in detoxifying air and water pollution.

Figure 3. An early Ganguly Fountain Screen.

After developing these early living screens led I was led to develop indoor living plant based creative fountains and miniature falls (Figs 3, 4). I further developed this technology in the Ramsay Wright Labs using living moss filters with special engineering design for the air exhaust system from the purifier to the room. Initially I worked with floor models and later table-top models (figs 5,6.)  which in turn inspired the current technology (patent pending) : improving air quality for the benefit of the society. In Calcutta water falling over green ivy plants with a fresh and healthy .

Figure 4. Early Fountain Screen

breeze was the first model for this concept of air purification. This effect for whole plants has been tested extensively by the United States Space Administration (Wolverton, 1990).  Years later in 1999 at the University of Toronto Canada, I further developed the ideas for living filters.


The Problem: Indoor Air Pollution and Health.

“Sick building syndrome”, long considered to be a psychological problem has been shown to be a direct and very real effect of airborne contaminants on the health and well being of the building inhabitants (Burge et al., 1987).

… contd …

:: Professor Biswajit (Bob) Ganguly

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