Ground-breaking project to clean urban air from pollution

By | Science & Technology
Credit: Edsousa(Edgar Sousa)/Deviantart

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch designer, has unveiled a device he claims will clear Beijing’s sky from smog.

The smog issue has become more relevant than ever this month after the environmental situation in Harbin. On the 20th of October, a record-setting dense wave of smog covered the Chinese city, increasing the pollution levels by a high mark of 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter.

It has become hardly possible to breath in the cities like Beijing and Harbin. Therefore, scientists are challenged to invent new ways of cleaning the air. If Roosegaarde’s project comes to live, the city’s residents will be able to get rid of their famous surgical-masks.

The designer says the idea came to his mind after he spent several days in Beijing without seeing blue sky and the sun. According to the study by Shiga University of Medical Science, several days without sunlight increase the number of people taking their own lives in Japan. The study showed that a higher number of incidents happened after three days without sun. The country has always had the highest suicide rates in the world.

Some scientists claim that vitamin D shortage, which is another consequence of a small amount of sunlight, may also influence these rates. Therefore, the alternative to urban popular, yet artificial sun beds, provided by Roosegaarde, might save the Japanese nation from their biggest concern.

The device will inhale the pollutants from the Beijing’s air using a powerful electromagnetic generator on the ground. The principle will be similar to what happens with hair when it touches a statically charged balloon. As a source of electromagnetic energy, copper coils will extract the harmful particles form the atmosphere. As the base will be located on the ground, it will be very easy to clear out the waste from the device. It is yet unknown how often this will need to be done and what other maintenance actions are required.

It will produce columns of fresh air within the smoggy environment. Roosegaarde says: “It creates these holes of 50-60 meters of clean air so you can see the sun again” (in an interview with Dezeen). However, it may seem that such a technology is only a symptom relief rather than a permanent way out of the smog. The designer himself acknowledges that this concept might bring more awareness to the issue, which sounds more like an environmental campaign. In any case, it is a step forward to fresher air in a megapolis, and Beijing’s citizens will be able to at least encounter unpolluted atmosphere.

Policymakers are already trying to come up with a more complex and realistic solution to a clearer atmosphere. Closing factories, banning access to the city center for cars and finding more efficient filtering systems are among their goals. Beijing’s officials are planning to spend $165 billion on their projects for clearing the sky of the capital. They also claim that in a period of five years the air in the city will actually become transparent.

Roosegaarde says his group has already tested the technology indoors and that he is quite sure that the device will be efficient outdoors as well. During the next 18 months Roosegaarde will be busy with the further development of a concept. The designer’s studio has agreed with Beijing’s authorities to test the device in the city’s parks.

How soon will the project come to life?

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