It turns out that our lungs may not actually be saved by giant outdoor air purifiers that turn smog into diamonds after all.
The concept was introduced earlier this year by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde. In September, his company unveiled their first “Smog Free Tower” in Beijing, promising to suck up 75% of the dangerous particles in the nearby air, and then spit back out clean air into the surrounding space. The captured smog particles would then be turned into diamonds, which would be sold as rings, cubes or cufflinks to fund the creation of more towers.
And that all sounds really awesome! Unfortunately, it sucks. Like really sucks. But not in a good way.
According to All China Tech, following a 50-day trial period, the China Forum of Environmental Journalists (CFEJ) released its report, finding that while the tower does manage to filter air particles, it doesn’t do it particularly well, or for a very large area. Despite claims that it could purify 30,000 cubic meters of air an hour, the machine has failed to create a non-toxic air bubble around even itself. Experts estimated that every hour the amount of harmful particulates that the machine captures doesn’t even add up to a single spoonful of salt, and have renamed it the “Smog Warning Tower.”
Three separate sets of data showed that even the tower’s best performance failed to make the surrounding air reach WHO air standards. To be fair, we don’t know if even Elon Musk could do that — considering it’s both outside and in Beijing.
At the same time, Studio Roosegaarde has tried to put a more rosy spin on the data, with an article titled “China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower is actually working,” saying that over 41 days the Smog Free Tower had scrubbed 10 Beijing National Stadiums worth of air and made the surrounding air 55% cleaner.
The Beijinger also recently did its own (admittedly not totally scientific) testing and found that the machine seemed to have no real affect on the area around it.
In Roosegaarde’s defense, he never cast his tower as the answer to the world’s air pollution problem. His team hoped that the giant air purfier would help to raise awareness and spur governments, NGOs, pro-bicycle campaigns and the clean-tech industry into collaborating to fight air pollution so that Smog Free Towers will eventually become unnecessary.
Well, they seem to have got part of that wish.
Guess that means we have to move on to Plan B. Everyone, grab your vacuum cleaners! It’s time to make some bricks!
[Images via Studio Roosegaarde]
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