Staring out of a 32nd-floor hotel window at the smog-obscured Beijing skyline in 2014, Dutch designer and entrepreneur Daan Roosegaarde had a sudden moment of clarity realising that, in spite of the Chinese capital’s famous air pollution issues, something could still be done to rectify the situation. Two years later and Daan is returning to the city to trial the Smog Free Tower, which Daan designed in collaboration with Bob Ursem, a researcher at Delft University of Technology. The Smog Free Tower is unique as it doesn’t just purify the surrounding air, but it also converts the smog extract from the air into jewellery.
At 7 metres in height, the Smog Free Tower is said to be capable of removing smog particles at a rate of 30,000 cubic metres of air per hour. All the while, using no more than 1,400 watts of electricity, something which your kettle would use. The tower is set to be trialled in Beijing this September.
The tower works by ionising particles in the air, which are then attracted to a central electrode, in order to remove them from the environment. Once the air particles are inside the tower, they are compressed under high pressure for around 30 minutes and then set in a resin to create jewellery. The process is very similar to how carbon is converted into diamonds after being compressed for millions of years.
Air pollution is such a major issue in Beijing and other parts of China, so much so that it is believed to be responsible for around 17% of all deaths. The smog in Beijing consists mainly of two particle types: Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, which includes all matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter and course dust particles, known as PM10, including matter between 2.5 and 10 microns. Both are harmful and can cause considerable damage when inhaled.
According to Daan Roosegaarde the Smog Free Tower is capable of removing both particle types from the surrounding air. The success of the Smog Free Tower could see China’s smog levels drop dramatically over the next few years, which would definitely be welcomed news.