Smog-Filtering Technologies: A Temporary Solution to a Larger Problem

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BEIJING — Smog is a danger to many people living in and around big cities. As countries continue to use more fossil fuels to keep up with the growing population, smog becomes an even more pressing issue. Although smog is a difficult problem to address, there are a few smog-filtering technologies to make it more manageable.

Since China has some of the worst air pollution in the world, Chinese scientists are devoted to creating many smog-filtering technologies. In September 2016, Beijing installed Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Towers around the city. These towers act like a smog vacuum cleaner, sucking in pollution particles using positive ions. Vents at the bottom of the tower expel the cleaned air, creating a smog-free zone around the tower.

These towers can clean around 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour. Each day, the towers clean about the amount of air in a football stadium. They are relatively compact, standing only about 23 feet tall, and are amazingly effective for their size. The air comes out about 75 percent purer, and they use only 1,400 watts of electricity, about the amount it takes to power a water boiler.

However, these towers were not the end of Roosegaarde’s contribution to smog-filtering technology. Roosegaarde and the bike company Ofo will collaborate to introduce “Future Bikes.” These are smog-filtering bikes that allow cyclists to bike to work without being fully affected by the horribly polluted air. The design is relatively simple; “a screen between the handlebars pulls in air from below and then delivers purified air up into the face of the cyclist.”

If cyclists travel in a line, the bikes create a flow of purified air behind them. By enabling a safe way to bike even in the smog, these Future Bikes allow people to bike to work and reduce the number of cars on the road that are creating the smog in the first place.

Roosegaarde is not the only one working to create smog-filtering technology. Scientists at the National University of Singapore recently “created organic molecules that are able to self-organize into nanoparticles, and eventually longer nanofibers.” Air filters made up of these nanofibers can remove up to 90 percent of pollutants while allowing more purified air to pass through.

Unlike many screens used to filter out pollution, these filters are thin enough to allow light to pass through while still filtering the smog and pollutants. These fibers can be used for window screens, not just air filters, since they allow light and fresh air into a room while keeping the smog out.

While these smog-filtering technologies are a fantastic way to address the problem, purifying the already polluted air is just a bandage on a larger wound. In other words, these technologies are not a permanent solution. They are a way to lessen the current health crisis caused by the smog, and in order to truly address the issue of smog and air pollution, countries must change their overall approach to energy and conservation.

China is already leading the charge in this fight against pollution by planning a fully green city. This “forest city” will naturally filter smog from the air using towers of more than 1,100 trees and 2,500 shrubs. Although China will have a whole city of plants, other cities like Milan are creating similar towers to Roosegaarde’s to combat air pollution.

Along with its progressive plans to use plants, China is becoming a leader in renewable energy. Creative solutions to combat pollution are important, but to truly fix the problem, the world needs to reduce the sources of energy that create pollution. China is, therefore, devising plans for more renewable and long-term solutions. In July of 2017, Panda Green Energy Group finished building a panda-shaped solar field, and it hopes that this field is the first of many like it. The design is meant to inspire more interest in solar energy in order to continue to counteract climate change and the dangers caused by pollution.

In 2015, in preparation for a parade, China shut down hundreds of factories and banned almost half of the country’s cars, reducing the number of vehicles to 2.5 million. The air quality in China quickly improved, but after the parade, the ban was lifted and air quality returned to the normal pollution level. This event demonstrates that a reduction in fossil fuels can solve this problem, but this is less feasible as a permanent solution. Solar fields, other renewable energy and smog-filtering technologies are just the beginning of a larger plan for lasting pollution reduction.

Rachael Lind
Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Rachael Lind

Rachael lives in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a major in English with a focus in creative writing, as well as a minor in both psychology and history. Within these subjects, Rachael particularly enjoys focusing on the ideas of monstrosity (such as Dracula), conflicts such as war or rebellions, and how complex people and their actions can be. Rachael finds subjects such as astronomy, environmental science, and biology fascinating and is always looking to learn more.

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