Arguably, the best solution for air pollution is to simply stop polluting the air and destroying vital areas of vegetation that naturally filter it. However, there is no resetting modern civilisation and to help us clean-up and restore the environment we will need to turn to technological solutions.
In this post, we’re going to look at eight of the most amazing pieces of technology that are leading the way in reducing the levels of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter in the air around us.
Some do so by directly removing or filtering pollutants from the air and others do so by removing the amount of pollution humans create. Not all of them are in widespread use and some may not be as practical as we’d like, but they all represent a potential for a cleaner future.
1. Turning Pollution into Ink
When life gives you diesel emissions, make ink. At least that’s the idea behind a recent innovation known as ‘air ink’.
The creators of air ink are Graviky Labs from MIT, who have been working on KAALINK. It’s a device that can be fitted on vehicle exhausts and chimney stacks and claims to capture 99% of released particulate-matter pollutants.
Captured pollutants are then turned into a carbon-based pigment that can be used as ink for printing or writing.
There are some concerns about the impact on engine efficiency when using the KAALINK, but it does show a route to productively reducing pollution. The more benefits that pollution-reduction can provide, the more attractive it will be.
2. Pollutant-hungry Moss
While moss is already a strong pollutant-remover, Green City Solutions has taken it even further with a moss-culture technology that is designed to scrub pollutants from the air in urban locations.
Their biotechnology has been used to construct CityTrees. Vertical plant installations placed in urban locations that claim to clean the air with the same efficiency as 275 trees. With as many as 90% of city dwellers taking in polluted air, these types of innovations are essential.
3. Smog Free Tower
The Smog Free Tower is a curious project from Dutch artist and inventor, Daan Roosegaarde. It’s a seven-foot-tall tower that essentially acts as a giant vacuum cleaner.
With a low energy requirement, the Smog Free Tower uses positive ionisation technology to clean 30,000 cubic meters of air every hour. The compressed smog particles are then turned into jewellery and profits are used to help improve air cleaning efforts.
More than anything, the Smog Free Tower acts as a powerful statement about the air we breathe.
4. Self-cleaning Concrete
Self-cleaning concrete has been used on several high-profile buildings around the world and it presents a subtle but practical way to reduce air pollution in cities.
The technology was created by Italian chemist Luigi Cassar and it uses a process known as ‘photocatalysis’. The heat and light of the sun break down material such as pollution particles into gases and leaves behind liquids and solids, therefore removing pollution from the air. Self-cleaning concrete helps speed up this chemical process to help decompose pollutants quicker.
Critics have suggested self-cleaning concrete may simply be moving pollution around and that it may not work as well on a large-scale as it does in a lab. However, it still may have applications in the right setting.
5. Wet Deposition Sprinklers
Wet deposition is a naturally occurring process where rain or snow collects gases and chemicals from the air and bring them down to the surface of the Earth. In other words, rain pulls pollutants out of the air and helps to reduce air pollution.
How can we use this to our advantage? By placing giant water sprinklers on top of skyscrapers.
Environmental researcher Yu Shaocai has floated ideas for creating artificial rain in heavily-polluted cities.
The theory does, however, come with a few problems. The main one being that rain is not necessarily an effective way of reducing air pollution. Some studies have suggested that even heavy rain only produces a mild reduction in air pollution.
6. Clean Air Bicycles
Another entry from the creators of the Smog Free Tower is the Smog Free Bicycle. Riding into clouds of exhaust smoke is one of the biggest annoyances of cycling around cities and the Smog Free Bicycle is a mask-free solution.
Led by the Chinese bike-sharing company ofo, the design works by attaching a filtration device to the handlebars of a bike and this pumps clean air up towards the rider. The idea was inspired by manta rays, who filter water for food, and gives a glimpse into personal solutions for air pollution for the future.
7. Purifying Honeysuckle
Not many machines are more low-energy than plants and that’s why they provide an excellent opportunity to reduce air pollution. Researchers in Amsterdam tried to capitalise on this with ‘Green Junkie’. A variant of honeysuckle that was bred to maximise air purification.
With hairy stems and scaled leaves, these plants were placed in strategic locations alongside roads around Amsterdam to help reduce pollution. While Green Junkie was ultimately not very successful at reducing air pollution, it does open doors for a green approach to reducing air pollution.
8. Custom Ceramic Microfilters
At Smart Separations, we’re creating a microfiltration platform that can boost efforts to reduce air pollution everywhere. These recyclable filters use unique ceramic membranes that are antimicrobial and able to scrub pollution from the air.
What truly sets these apart is the manufacturing process. The filters can be customised for sizes between 1 and 100 microns without needing a new mould. This means they can be designed to be used on a wide range of devices, including other air purification applications, and even be retrofitted to existing ones.
Something as small and simple as a new filter can have a big impact on air purification across the industry.
Leading the War on Air Pollution
No one technological solution will fix all of our air pollution issues. It’s important that we all work together to champion innovations that will give us a cleaner future and discover opportunities to refine our technology.
With any solutions, we need to be sure that they’re practical, non-intrusive and attractive to the people who need to adopt them. If you’d like to discuss our technology or research opportunities further, then please get in touch today.