An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Manufacturing requires water, and lots of it. A medium-sized semiconductor fabrication plant uses upwards of 10 million gallons of water a day. In a world increasingly plagued by droughts, this dependence on water poses a major challenge.

Gradiant offers a solution to this water problem. Cofounded by Anurag Bajpayee SM ’08, PhD ’12 and Prakash Govindan PhD ’12, the company is a pioneer in sustainable—or “cleantech”—water projects. 

The idea here is to give nature its water back, to elevate water to the level of respect that it deserves as an essential resource for life.

“We really aspire to bring water to the forefront of the awareness of different industries and to help them become water-sustainable,” says Govindan, who serves as Gradiant’s chief operating officer.

As doctoral students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Bajpayee and Govindan shared a pragmatism and penchant for action. They both worked on desalination research—Bajpayee with Professor Gang Chen and Govindan with Professor John Lienhard.

Inspired by a childhood spent during a severe drought in Chennai, India, Govindan developed technology that mimics natural rainfall cycles for his PhD. It was with this piece of technology, which they named Carrier Gas Extraction, that the duo founded Gradiant in 2013.

Today, the company offers a full technology stack of water and wastewater treatment solutions to clients in industries including pharmaceuticals, energy, mining, food and beverage, and the ever-growing semiconductor industry.  

“By increasing recycling rates within those industries,” Govindan says, “Gradiant is minimizing both water withdrawal of fresh water sources—which would otherwise be used for human consumption—and also minimizing and eliminating discharge of contaminated waters into existing water bodies, which would otherwise contaminate those water bodies.”

Gradiant has seen explosive growth over the past decade. With 450 water and wastewater treatment plants built to date, the company treats the equivalent of 5 million households’ worth of water each day.

“The idea here is to give nature its water back, to elevate water to the level of respect that it deserves as an essential resource for life,” says Bajpayee, who serves as CEO of Gradiant. “If we can do that while allowing industry to thrive and while allowing standards of living to improve, then we’ve come close to accomplishing our mission.”

With text adapted from Manufacturing a Cleaner Future by Mary Beth Gallagher, MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Watch a recent MIT Alumni Association video about Gradiant to learn more.