The city of Rotterdam has opened the world’s largest purifier. Co-designed by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde – who was also responsible for the psychedelic jellyfish-inspired Smart Highway – the seven-metre tall smog tower sucks in pollutants out of dirty cities, filters them and returns clean bubbles of breathable air through vents in its six sides. It’s no wonder it’s been compared to “a giant vacuum cleaner”.
An estimated 3 million people die prematurely each year due to the effects of air pollution and this is projected to double by 2050. Inspired by China’s chronic smog, in September 2015 Roosegaarde created clean air zones in cities by taking the super-sized filtering tower to Rotterdam, before going on to Mumbai and Beijing, both cities that suffer from very poor air quality. After Beijing, the Smog Free Project travels to new Chinese cities in 2017, sharing the dream of breathing clean air for free.
The tower’s filtering unit uses ionic filters to charge and remove particles of smog, cleaning 30,000 cubic metres of air an hour (approximately the size of 100 swimming pools) through a patented ionization-technique, which is similar to hospitals’ air purification systems. This form of filtering captures even the smallest particles from the air and doesn’t create ozone in the process. Held just outside a parking garage, the first test results showed the filter cleaned surrounding air by 75 percent, measured by the share of nanoparticles removed.
Part of the designer’s Smog-Free Project, which aims to clean urban skies, Roosegaarde’s plan is to to bring the air purifier to polluted cities around the world, bringing together governments, NGOs, the cleantech industry and ordinary citizens: “We can work together to make whole cities smog-free,” he told the Guardian. “We can wait – or we can participate.” New York City has just ordered 12 cars featuring the filter and there will be a pilot air-filter project in Eindhoven and then Paris.
Although it offers a refreshing approach to a global problem, the Smog Free Tower has limitations as a solution to environmental issues on a large scale, partly as the filters are so expensive the cost has not been disclosed. The only way to stop smog is to stop making smog. However, the artist is building awareness of the pollution problems in booming cities.
Roosegaarde is compressing smog particles into high-end jewellery items such as rings and cufflinks. By sharing Smog Free Jewellery, you donate 1000m3 of clean air to the city. Join the Smog Free Movement here.
Daan Roosegaarde, Studio Roosegaarde