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Vol 19, No. 11, November 2015   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Smog Free Tower - The Huge Hoover in a City
Imagine waking up in the morning and you look out of the window, it is a clear blue sky. When was the last time you breathe in clean air? The Smog Free Tower, conceived and designed by Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde, in collaboration with Bob Ursem, the expert behind the patented ultra-fine reduction technology, resonates the solution for clean air in urban areas. The following interview provides the gist of the Smog Free Tower and on the possibilities to place the Huge Hoover in a park or a city.

1. How does the Smog Free Tower work?

The Smog Free Tower draws in particulate matter - polluted air from all surrounded areas with the use of innovative and patented particle capture technology of Ursem (inventor), and ENS Europe Ltd (calculations and construction). The capture technology is based on a high voltage source that sends electrons to hit the particles of 10 Nano in diameter and larger, knocking off electrons of the air borne particulates and transferring them into positive charged particulate matter. The ultra-fine dust particles and fine dust particles will drift off from the high voltage charge electrode, and follow the field lines towards the grounded counter electrode, and becomes fixed as a chemical bonding at the counter electrode. The Smog Free Tower uses little electricity and is safe. The system has been tested at the highest KEMA test qualification in the Netherlands and is also European certified as a safe device in 2008. The clean air that is blown out again creates a 'Smog Free Park'; a bubble of clean air in which we can inhale and experience air that is 70% cleaner on particulate matter of 10 nanometres (nm) or larger in diameter in open air settings than the rest of the city and 99% clean for particulate matter of 10 nm or larger as applied for indoor areas.

2. The amount of energy or electric power to run the tower for 24 hours?

The energy consumption of the tower is very low, as low as 1700 watts per 24 hours, mostly because of the applied ventilator. The electrical charge installed capture system, the actual charging of particulates and fixation to the grounded counter electrode uses only a few Watt-hours on energy consumption. The tower currently runs on green wind energy powered by Eneco. The tower is also able to run on solar energy.

3. Please estimate and comment on the number of towers to make Beijing smog free.

The Smog Free Tower is not only a local solution, but also a sensory experience for a clean future. We believe that the experience the tower provides is a huge incentive for citizens, NGO’s, clean-tech industry, and governments to work together to free all cities from smog. The Smog Free Tower is part of a bigger picture, the Smog Free Movement.

The applied system has been tested in a parking garage facility with two equal units and purifies the air of the parking garage and the shopping mall on top of the parking garage. Recent inquiries of people living in the vicinity of the Ultra Fine Dust Reduction System (UFDRS) equipped parking garage shows an impact of clean air to about half a kilometre circumference area.

We do have a calculation computer programme to calculate the needed devices and number of applied UFDRS units for cities - that could cover Beijing as well, as already calculated for the city of Rotterdam with the use of parking garages (refer to answer to question 4).

4. What are the considerations to be taken into account if smog-free towers were to be installed at the top of each high-rise building in the city? And what is the proximity of one tower to the next.

The Smog Free Tower is not intended to clean a whole city of Smog. This single ‘Smog Free Tower’ is just a beautiful device to show that it is possible to clean the air in a small area. Larger devices are created and installed elsewhere and show a far more significant reduction on a large scale. A factory plant has been equipped with a large-scale unit, called the titan version, and purifies a whole factory plant and vicinity.

Estimation to purify a city can be done with the use of existing parking garages existing in every city. Rotterdam needs about 46 of these parking garages to reduce the smog in the whole city, on 10nm or larger particulate matter, including elementary carbon of gas exhaust.

5. And what happens to the dirt collected from the filter? Is there a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) to bin it?

In the future, waste should not exist. The smog dust filled with carbon is compressed into a cube. Dutch architect Daan Roosegaarde designed Smog Free Rings and Smog Free Cufflinks with these cubes creating a tangible souvenir. By sharing Smog Free Jewelry, you donate 1000m3 of clean air to the city.

If not used in the Smog Free Jewelry, it is normally cleaned by scraping off the captured particulates of the grounded plate every couple of months, of course depending on the air pollution of fine dust and ultra-fine dust concentrations. This figure is given for average aerosol pollution in urban areas.

6. Will there be further improvements or upgrades to the huge air hoover machine (Smog Free Tower)?

This system purifies only particulate matter of 10 nm or larger in diameter. This is also the physical limit of charging. The minimum particle dimension is 10 nm in diameter, because such a particle can only be knocked off by a single electron. Smaller particles are in mass, and are too small in diameter to respond as a stable positive charge particulate, because of Brownian movements. The system cannot be improved, because of limits in physics. The system can also be applied and has already been applied on liquid droplets that, because of its mass, do response in the same way as particulate matter. The system can never be applied on gases, because gases do not have a mass, so intrinsically impossible to knock off electrons. In addition, gases can be removed as well with the use of this system as applied in a slightly different device of fog production that incorporates/dissolves gases in liquid droplets, which can be treated afterwards in the same process as mentioned with liquid droplets.

7. The Smog Free Ring jewelry is a rather intelligent idea. Would it be possible to develop a portable or jewelry-air purifier?

A portable jewelry-air purifier is an incomparable combination. But a portable air purifier does exist as device on street sweepers. These add-on systems are already applied on street sweeper cars and as portable devices in operation in New York City. In addition, also as an indoor device for home use and offices, and is available at Environmental Nano Solutions (ENS) Europe Ltd, the Netherlands.

8. Are there any messages or events that you would like our readers to know?

The application known as ‘Smog Free Tower’ project and ‘Smog Free Park’ device with this tower as designed by Studio Roosegaarde are beautiful applications, but this is clearly not the only and first device of the use of the Ultra Fine Dust Reduction System. It has been already installed in parking garages, factory plants, poultry farms, pig stables, as indoor portable device, called embrace, for homes and offices. In addition, it will soon be applied in hospitals, on school playgrounds in urban cities, along freeways, in tunnels and as fog removal device and permanent fog free spaces in open-air areas to secure traffic. An upcoming event will be a pavilion on the Green Week in Berlin in January 2016 and exposure at the Eurotop meeting of the heads of states in 2016.

Furthermore this is part of a PhD thesis in Applied Physics by Ursem, the inventor of the UFDRS. This thesis will be defended to an international scholars committee that includes two Noble Prize winners and accompanied with a scientific conference with this theme at the Delft University of Technology in early 2016 with media exposure to share novel scientific impacts.

If you would like to make a donation to the Smog Free Project and receive a Smog Free Ring or Smog Free Cufflinks in return, please visit www.studioroosegaarde.net.

About the Interviewees

Bob Ursem is Scientific Director of the Botanic Garden, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and specialises in the application of plants in the development of technology, particularly in the materials science and engineering disciplines. He is also the founder and President of the Dutch Society of Botanic Gardens.

Bob, who trained as a chemist, a biologist and a physicist has several patented inventions to his name and has won a number of prestigious international awards. Most notably, in 2008, he and his colleagues received the Intertraffic Innovation Award, in recognition for the fine dust and ultra fine dust reduction system to improve urban air quality applied to tunnels, roads and motorways; in 2011, he received the Delft DEMO Award Innovation Award for the fine dust reduction system applied to several technologies; in 2014, he received the Made In Holland Award of VNO-NCW and Ministries of Economic Affairs of Belgium, Luxembeurg and the Netherlands for harvesting secondary metabolites in general from plants applied with static electric fields.

Bob is the expert behind the patented and energy-friendly ion technology to capture PM2.5 smog.

Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde is internationally known for creating social designs exploring the relations between people, technology and space. Based in the Netherlands and Shanghai, Studio Roosegaarde is the social design lab with his team of designers and engineers. Dan is Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, in the top 5 of Sustainable Trouw 100 as the most influential Dutch green leader, and selected as Talent of the Year 2015 by Kunstweek.

With projects ranging from fashion to architecture, his interactive designs such as Dune, Smart Highway and Waterlicht are tactile high-tech environments in which viewer and space become one. This connection, established between ideology and technology, results in what Daan calls 'techno-poetry'. The innovative Smog Free Tower was conceived and designed by Daan.

Daan has won the INDEX Design Award, the World Technology Award, two Dutch Design Awards, the Charlotte Köhler Award, and China's Most Successful Design Award. He has been the focus of exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Tate Modern, Tokyo National Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and various public spaces in Rotterdam and Hong Kong.

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