The Smog Free Project has just announced that it will be partnering with China’s Film Method Works, an environmental technology company, to continue production of its famous Smog Free Towers later this year. The project, known for turning small amounts of Beijing’s dirty air into diamonds, recently brought its work to the Liaoning coastal city of Dalian for the 2017 Dalian Summer Davos, following a brief stop in Tianjin.
The tower is part of Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde’s efforts to use “creative thinking and new technology to improve lives.” The 7-meter tall metal structure was advertised as having the capacity to filter 75% of PM2.5 and PM10 particles from the surrounding air, producing 30,000 cubic meters of clean air per hour.
In a project where art meets engineering, the tower is intended to not only remove pollutants from the air, but additionally use the smog particles to create diamonds. The idea: the glimmering products can be auctioned off in order to fund the development of more towers. Designed for outdoor spaces, the hope of the tower’s creators is that it will help to improve the quality of life in the city.
“We will focus on public spaces to encourage children to play outside again,” Roosegaarde said. “It is a series of urban innovations to reduce pollution on a city-wide scale, a package deal for mayors for achieving immediate impact and a lasting effect in creating smog-free cities.”
However, it hasn’t all been blue skies and sunshine for the Smog Free Project. In fact, the problem is precisely that: blue skies remain hard to come by in Beijing.
Approximately a month after the tower’s debut in Beijing, the China Forum of Environmental Journalists (CFEJ) published their assessment of the structure’s performance. The tower has been advertised as being a legitimate means of disposing of the harmful air pollutant particles that plague Chinese cities. But, after having evaluated the tower during its trial run, the CFEJ concluded that it should be renamed the “Smog Warning Tower” based on its underwhelming effect, which was proven to be unreliable and nonexpansive. After evaluating three sets of data, it was determined that the Beijing tower failed to remove enough of the smog in the immediately surrounding area to allow the air quality to meet WHO standards (which, to be fair, is a tall task in Beijing).
But, earlier this year, Studio Roosegaarde fired back with its own study from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands which claims to show the tower’s effectiveness, concluding that:
The results confirm that the tower captures and removes up to 70% of the ingested PM10 and up to 50% of the ingested PM2.5. For a tower in an open field in calm weather, this provides PM10 reductions up to 45% and PM2.5 reductions up to 25% in a circle with a diameter of more than 20 m around the tower. When the tower is applied in semi-enclosed or enclosed courtyards, the beneficial effects can be much larger.
So, to summarize, in perfect conditions, the tower creates a bubble of semi-clean air with a diameter of 10 meters. While Studio Roosegaarde believes that these results validate their project, the findings also bring to mind comments made last year by Feng Jia, a member of the Chinese Society For Environmental Sciences, who called the Smog Free Tower less of a problem solver and more “just a kind of performance art.”
Despite debate about the effectiveness of their technology, the Smog Free Project has not slowed down. In addition to the Smog Free Tower, Studio Roosegaarde has released a new concept which is currently in development: the Smog Free Bicycle. Using similar technology to that of the towers, the bicycles will be designed to take in polluted air as the rider pedals, producing cleaner air, purportedly on a city-wide scale if enough are produced.
The underwhelming effect that the Smog Free Project has thus far had on China’s dangerous pollution does not mean that the project has been a failure. While the Smog Free Towers are no “forest city,” by bringing an innovative and beautiful structure to public spaces across China, Roosegaarde has at the very least helped to encourage a nation-wide discussion about protecting the environment.
[Images via CGTN]
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