Looking at most products being sold in the market today, chances are, you will read the label “Made In China” written on the back. China’s growth these past few decades has been aggressive and has made China one of the leading countries, industrially and economically. Progress has its cost however, as China’s rapid industrialization has turned the country into a health hazard for its citizens.
When Daan Roosegaarde, Dutch artist, innovator and founder of the company Studio Roosegaarde, visited Beijing in 2014, he was struck by inspiration by what he did not see.
“It was all gone,” Roosegaarde says. “The city was completely covered with smog.”
The Smog Free Tower
Two years later, he came back with a solution in the form of the “Smog Free Tower” which essentially is the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner. The Smog Free Tower uses patented ion technology to produce smog-free bubbles of public space, allowing people to breathe and experience clean air for free.
The tower just had its pilot run in Roosegaarde’s hometown of Rotterdam and he recounted the whole experience and the ‘unique’ effect it had on the local environment.
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“For some reason, little rabbits find the space around the tower particularly intriguing. I don’t know why. Perhaps they can feel the difference,” he says
The technology behind the tower uses ion technology to attracts and capture small pollution particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — and releases clean air, leaving the surrounding area with air that is about 75% cleaner, Roosegaarde says.
“Basically, it’s like when you have a plastic balloon, and you polish it with your hand, it becomes static, electrically charged, and it attracts your hair.”
The seven-meter high tower can clean around 30,000 cubic meters of air each hour, which Roosegaarde says is “a small neighborhood a day.” It runs on just 1,400 watts of power — no more than a tea kettle.
Testing Out The Waters
A tour which is a collaboration between Studio Roosegaarde and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, will see the tower making its debut in China this September starting with Beijing. An online voting poll will be conducted to determine which cities the tower will make its stop next based on the results.
After China, Roosegaarde plans to bring the tower around the world — Mexico City and India are destinations under consideration.
More than 80% of people in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization limits. As urban air quality declines, the risk of diseases such as strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma goes up.
Small particles, PM10 and PM2.5, are particularly dangerous and affect more people than any other pollutant. The smaller the particle, the more dangerous it is — PM2.5 being so tiny it can easily penetrate the blood and lungs.
While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted, with 98% of cities there not meeting WHO air quality guidelines, compared to 56% of cities in high-income countries, according to recently released data from WHO.
It’s No Silver Bullet
Roosegaarde has received request from all over the world to make more towers but warns that while these ‘towers’ have made improvements, it is not a permanent solution to better air quality. He believes this will attract more attention to the problem and see more efforts be done to address it.
“But I believe that creating a place where people can live, where they can feel the difference, smell the difference — that is a very powerful motivator.”
“I hope that the designs I make will be part of a mentality change,” says Roosegaarde.
Fill Two Needs With One Deed
Aside from being used as an ‘air purifier’, the smog collected by the tower is also being used to create jewelry.
The inspiration came from the process by which diamonds are made in nature by compressed carbon. The compressed smog particles, which are partially made of carbon, are put under high pressure for 30 minutes, sealed within a resin cube, and used in rings and cufflinks.
“We have wedding couples buying it,” Roosegaarde says. “They want to give each other true beauty.”
So far, 1,000 rings and cuff-links have already been shipped and orders keep coming. There is only one problem — they have already run out of smog, Roosegaarde says.
“But I am sure in Beijing we will catch up.”
Inspiration Comes From The Unexpected
The 36 year-old designer who founded his company – Studio Roosegaarde – back in 2007, calls it a “the dream factory” and has always sought inspiration from his environment to come up with innovative solutions to some of society’s common problems.
“I am a guy who fell in love with places before I fell in love with girls. I always had a really strong connection with making places and experiences that you cannot download,” says the designer.
“And in a weird but beautiful way I became inspired by the Beijing smog.”
This feature’s source was originally from CNN.