Daan Roosegaarde’s positive–ionization “vacuum cleaner” uses high-voltage, low-amp electricity to create an electrostatic field. Particles flowing across the field—enclosed in a box—become positively charged and attach themselves to a grounded electrode, which need to be scraped clean periodically. (Roosegaarde plans to turn the stuff into “diamond” rings, with a cubic-centimeter stone representing a cubic kilometer of smog.)
The system was actually invented by Delft University of Technology researcher Bob Ursem, who came up with the idea of ionizing smog particles after watching tiny bits of salt, dust and organic matter flow off the Atlantic Ocean onto a Dutch beach. “They floated into the dunes toward some bushes,” Ursem says, “and there was a lift effect, carrying them above the bushes.” The particles, negatively charged from friction, were avoiding contact with negatively charged foliage. “They floated above the bushes, indicating that the electrical force is greater than the gravity force,” Ursem says.
A Beijing air cleaner would require fans, say officials the research and development firm Environmental Nano Solutions (ENS) Europe, which bought the concept from Delft University and is developing it for commercial marketing.
Plans for the Beijing device center on a large octagonal structure eight meters tall with intake vents at the top and exhaust vents in the middle, out of which will flow smog-free air. The steel structure will weigh about nine metric tons. To demonstrate the absence of smog in the freshair zone, lasers will shoot out beams, which will be invisible in a particle-free environment. ENS Europe’s smog buster will clean a dome-shaped area 30 meters in diameter to a height of about five meters. The whole thing, Pau says, will “resemble a medieval Chinese palace.”
Demonstrations using prototype smog-collectors in a parking garage, a large pig barn and a highway tunnel have proved the machines’ ability to clear out up to 99 percent of particles as big as 15 micrometers and as small as 10 nanometers, Pau says. This range includes the particles—from 2.5 to 10 micrometers—that the World Health Organization deems as having the greatest potential for causing human health problems.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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