Imagine putting giant vacuum cleaners on the roofs of city buildings, so that they can suck the dirt out of the air. That's exactly the proposal coming from the Dutch Envinity Group, which has developed a new device that it says can filter 100% of fine particles from the air, ridding more than 280,000 cubic feet of air per hour of pollution.
The filtering system also pulls 95% of ultra-fine particles out of the sky, drawing air from a height of up to 4.4 miles and with a radius of almost 1,000 feet. "A large column of air will pass through the filter and come out clear," Envinity Group's spokesperson Henk Boersen told Phys Org.
Airborne particulates are considered by the World Health Organization to be deadly. It categorizes them as a group 1 carcinogen. They penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can cause cause permanent DNA mutations, heart attacks, and premature death. Particles are produced by industry, as well as vehicles and burning coal.
The Dutch vacuum cleaner, if deployed in significant numbers, could potentially help clean up city air. This, of course, is a huge "if": It would need to be powered by clean, affordable energy and filter massive volumes of air to make any dent in overall air quality. (If the electricity came from coal, it's going to be counterproductive.)
The device could, in theory, be useful for companies who want to comply with ever-tighter emissions laws, or for governments trying to meet emissions quotas, provided the costs can be made reasonable. And it's a simple design, too, looking a lot like a section of ventilation ductwork.
Last year, the Chinese artist Nut Brother wandered the streets of Beijing for 100 days, using a regular vacuum cleaner to collect enough smog to make a brick. With the Envinity Group's new cleaner, he probably could have managed to build an entire house.