Giant Air Purifier Creates a Breath of Fresh Air

ENVIRONMENT

The Smog Free Tower has arrived in China, bringing clean air and diamonds. Yes, diamonds. (Voice of America)

What is smog? What are diamonds? Use our resources to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas

  • The Smog Free Tower uses innovative technology and beautiful design to create a “bubble of clean air.” What is smog? Use our short encyclopedic entry for some help.
    • Smog is a type of air pollution that reduces visibility in addition to impacting health. The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog.
    • Today, most of the smog we see is photochemical smog. Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions. VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and ground-level ozone: smog.

 

  • The Smog Free Tower collects more than 75% of PM2.5 and PM10 smog particles. What are PM2.5 and PM10?
    • PM simply stands for “particulate matter.”
    • The numbers refer to the size of the particulate matter. PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter, while PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter.
      • Particles less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter are so small that they can get into our lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

 

  • Is the Smog Free Tower a long-term solution to smog?
    • No. The Guardian acknowledges that “while smog filters may offer some hope to suffering residents of booming cities, no one technology or tactic can be as effective as working on the root causes of air pollution.” Governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals need to act more responsibly to limit emissions.

 

shanghai-smog

The tallest towers of Shanghai, China, rise above the haze. Shanghai’s smog is a mixture of pollution from coal, the primary source of energy for most homes and businesses in the region, as well as emissions from vehicles.
Photograph by Nigel Swinn, My Shot

  • Why does China have particularly poor air quality?
    • China has undergone a very, very rapid industrialization. “Decades of growth-at-all-costs economic development in China has spawned massive problems of air, water and soil pollution that the ruling Communist Party has only in recent years begun to tackle,” VOA says.
    • Researchers estimate that pollution causes 1.6 million deaths annually in China, marking about 17% of all deaths.

 

  • How does the Smog Free Tower work?
    • According to the World Economic Forum, “it sucks up polluted air, and cleans it at the nano-level” using patented ozone-free ion technology.
    • The tower requires a small amount (1,170 watts) of electricity, about the same as a water heater. The energy it uses is renewable: wind.

 

  • How much does the Smog Free Tower cost to build, install, and maintain?
    • Cost is difficult to estimate because the engineers won’t talk about it and the components of the tower are not yet in production. (The Smog Free Tower that debuted in Rotterdam and is currently in China is a working prototype that relied on a $55,000 Kickstarter campaign. The filters for the project range in price from about $1,800 to $132,400.)

 

Smog Free Rings and Cufflinks are souvenirs made of compressed smog particles. Photograph courtesy Studio Roosegaarde

Smog Free Rings and Cufflinks are souvenirs made of compressed smog particles.
Photograph courtesy Studio Roosegaarde

  • Now, what about those diamonds?
    • The Smog Free Tower compresses the smog particles it collects. These compressed particles are sold as rings and cufflinks, which visitors can buy. By sharing a Smog Free Ring, people donate 1000 cubic meters of clean air. (The jewelry costs about $270.)

 

The 7-meter (23 feet) Smog Free Tower debuted in the Netherlands, and is currently traveling to cities in China. Isn’t it lovely? Photograph courtesy Studio Roosegaarde

The 7-meter (23 feet) Smog Free Tower debuted in the Netherlands, and is currently traveling to cities in China. Isn’t it lovely?
Photograph courtesy Studio Roosegaarde

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Voice of America: Giant Air Purifier Aims to Raise Smog Awareness in China

Guardian: World’s first smog filtering tower goes on tour

Nat Geo: What is smog?

Studio Roosegaarde: Smog Free Project

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