Air pollution poses a serious risk worldwide. Towns and cities are choked with smog and dangerous emissions, which are damaging both the environment and the health of global populations.
Thankfully, we're closer to solving the problem than ever before. With cutting-edge technologies, government initiatives, and innovative projects we could finally put an end to air pollution once and for all. Here are some of the projects that can make a big impact.
1. Friends of the Earth: Letting Citizens Test their Own Air Quality
One of the best tools in the fight against air pollution is education. By educating people on the importance of clean air, what they can do to lower their own emissions, and how to be aware of the air quality in their area, the problem of pollution can be better addressed.
Friends of the Earth is an environmental charity in the UK supplying citizens with testing kits, so they can learn more about the quality of the air in their local areas. The kits include a monitoring tube and an easy-to-follow guide, so that concerned citizens can get accurate answers about the air they're breathing.
2. The Nanjing Vertical Forest: Growing An Urban Forest to Clean the Air
Due to the heavy industry that takes place all across China, they've been suffering from some of the worst levels of air pollution worldwide.
The past few years have seen China propose and implement numerous pollution-busting initiatives in an effort to make their air healthy again.
One such project is the Nanjing Vertical Forest in the Jiangsu province. It's been estimated that the forest will be able to absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide, and release enough oxygen to make the air 3,000 times healthier than it is currently.
The proposed design features 3,000 different plants, and is expected to be completed sometime this year.
3. AIR-INK: Printing With Inks Made From Polluted Air
Some of the most interesting projects seeking to combat air pollution are also looking to utilize the pollutants drawn from the air in creative ways. One such project is AIR-INK, an ink made from carbon emissions.
The product is made by Graviky Labs, and was funded via Kickstarter. People simply have to connect the KAALINK device to their car exhaust pipe, and within 45 minutes of driving, they'll have 1 fluid ounce of ink. The captured pollutants are then purified in a lab, and manufactured into usable ink.
4. The Smog-Free Tower: Transforming Smog Into Jewellery
Ink is one thing, but what if you could turn pollution into glittering gems? Sounds too good to be true? Then take a look at the Smog-Free Tower, a vacuum that sucks in smog and condenses the particles into gemstones.
It's the brainchild of Dutch artist, Dan Roosegaarde. The Smog-Free Tower uses relatively little energy, sending positive ions into the air which connect themselves to dust particles. A negative ion in the vacuum then draws the positive ions back inside, bringing the particles with them. Though the tower first debuted in Rotterdam in 2015, it is now being used in other cities around the world.
5. Free Transport: Encouraging Citizens To Ditch Their Cars
By now it's pretty much common knowledge that our cars are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to polluting the air. That's why Germany is considering making public transport free, to encourage citizens to cut down on their carbon footprint by leaving their cars at home.
The announcement was made in February of this year, and trials look set to take place throughout the country before the year is out.
It's a controversial suggestion, and one that hasn't convinced everyone. If they can pull it off, however, it could make a massive impact on the quality of air in Germany.
6. The World's Largest Air Purifier: Cleaning the Air With a Skyscraper
In January of this year, work began on the world's largest air purifier in Xian, China.
The massive structure measures 328 feet (100 meters) and can improve the air quality within an almost 4-mile radius (10 square kilometers).
The tower is just one of a number of Chinese efforts to combat air pollution.
The coming months will be crucial in determining how effective the tower is, and if the results are positive it won't be surprising to see similar towers erected across the country.
7. Pollution Vacuum Cleaners: Sucking Up the Air's Contaminants
What if we could place giant vacuum cleaners on top of buildings, that could clean the surrounding air? That question is what spurred the Evinity Group, a Dutch collective of inventors, into action. In 2016 they debuted an enormous, industrial vacuum that can remove airborne contaminants.
The vacuum removes fine particles and ultra-fine particles, which have been identified as carcinogenic risks by the World Health Organization. The inventors claim that the vacuum can eliminate 100% of fine particles, and 95% of ultra-fine particles, within a 984-foot radius (300 meters).
8. Fuel Bans: Taking Fossil Fuels Off the Roads For Good
Removing contaminants from the air is great as a short-term solution, but it doesn't address the long-term effects of carbon emissions. One way that many countries are looking to create a greener, cleaner future is through the banning of fuels like petrol and diesel.
Among the countries vowing to make the change is the United Kingdom, which plans to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from the road by 2040. With the rapidly growing interest in electric vehicles worldwide, initiatives like these have every chance of succeeding.
9. CityTree: Purifying Urban Areas the Natural Way
Urban areas are the worst-hit when it comes to air pollution. The lack of green areas and trees in cities means that there's little opportunity for carbon dioxide to be absorbed, leaving the air quality poor. That's why German start-up, Green City Solutions, created the CityTree.
The CityTree is a vertical unit, not unlike a billboard, that incorporates moss and lichen. Thanks to these hard-working plants, each unit can absorb as much as 240 tons of carbon dioxide a year. This means they can perform the task of 275 trees, while demanding a fraction of the space and cost.
10. All Electric: Setting the Stage For Zero-Emissions Vehicles
When many countries across the world finally succeed in banning combustion engine vehicles from their roads, they'll need a lot of electric vehicles to take their place. India, to name just one country, has announced that as of 2030 they will only be selling electric vehicles.
This would be a huge game-changer for India, whose population currently suffers 1.2 million air pollution-related deaths a year. The change could also save the country $60 billion in energy costs. The brave move is one that many other countries are sure to follow.
11. Fuel from Pollutants: Creating Hydrogen Fuel from Air Pollution
Today's pollution could very well become tomorrow's fuel. That's thanks to research from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven. In May of last year, scientists struck upon a startling new method that allowed them to purify air, and create hydrogen fuel from the extracted pollutants.
The researchers created a device containing a thin membrane. On one side of the membrane, air was purified. On the other side, hydrogen gas resulting from the degradation of the contaminants was collected. The gas could then be used as fuel. The device was powered by solar energy, making it entirely clean.
12. Pollution Sensors: Providing Data on Air Quality Everywhere
One issue that has stalled the fight against air pollution is a lack of comprehensive data. While urban areas are well-tested for their quality of air, suburbs and rural areas have fewer resources when it comes to measuring air quality.
In India, government initiatives are working to install pollution sensors across all areas of the country, in a bid to detect and eliminate air pollution. A new, cutting-edge series of sensors are set to be certified in September of this year, which will go on to provide valuable data in the fight against air pollution in India.
13. Smart Streetlights and Sensors: Working In Tandem to Clean the Air
India isn't the only place looking to install state-of-the-art sensors. Just last week, Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, announced that they would be installing carbon dioxide monitors inside the streets' smart lights.
The sensors can provide real-time information on the worst affected areas when it comes to air pollution, allowing for more effective strategies in combating pollution and letting residents know which areas of the city are of the greatest risk to their health.
14. Anti-Smog Guns: Shooting Pollution Down from the Air
The idea of an anti-smog gun might sound ridiculous, but it could be an effective method of clearing smog-afflicted areas during times of high pollution. The government of Delhi, India tested the guns last year to bring down dangerous levels of smog in Anand Vihar.
The guns work by spraying water vapor into the air, which absorbs the pollutants before falling to the ground like rain. While it doesn't remove the pollutants entirely, it's an effective short-term solution for smog-heavy days where breathing the air could present a serious health risk to residents.
15. Project Air View: Tracking Pollution in Your Area
Google Earth is useful not only for creating accurate maps of the world, but also for giving us insight into the quality of air. In a project launched by Google in 2015, Google Street View cars traveled around West Oakland taking air samples.
Through doing this, they were able to pull comprehensive data about the quality of air in the city, and how it fluctuated over time. Thanks to this research, they could potentially allow users to examine the average air quality in their area, or other areas around the world, in future.
The accessibility of information like this would allow for more effective targeting of anti-pollution initiatives, and would give people a heads-up on the more dangerous areas in the vicinity when it comes to poor air quality.