8 Innovative Ideas for Solving Air Pollution
Updated: Apr 23
These days, the climate change statistics can be pretty disheartening. 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record, even though many of us were stuck indoors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sea levels are on the rise due to melting polar ice caps, extreme events are becoming more frequent, and the greenhouse gasses that cause all of these issues continue to increase in the atmosphere. As well as their devastating environmental effects, these toxic emissions can cause serious human health issues, such as lung disease, heart attack, stroke and physical and mental deterioration. Whether they exist as an invisible threat or a grey cloud of smog that hangs over our cities, air pollution is no joke.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom-and-gloom. Thankfully, all around the world, scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs are coming up with creative ways to solve our air pollution issues before it is too late. To inspire a little hope, we have compiled a list of the 8 coolest, quirkiest answers to the question that we’re all asking—how do we save our precious planet?
Developed by a spinoff of the MIT Media Lab, AIR-INK collects carbon emissions that would have otherwise been expelled into the environment and turns them into black ink that can be used for industrial printing, silk screening, or simply to draw a picture. Black, the most commonly used colour in printing, is traditionally made using fossil fuels and has a big, bad carbon footprint. AIR-INK is made by Graviky Labs and uses innovation and experimentation to create an ink that is environmentally net-positive.
2. Cloud Seeding
Cloud seeding is a weather manipulation process that uses “seeds” such as silver iodide, dry ice or even table salt to grow clouds that can create artificial rainfall. These seeds are put into the sky by dropping them out of a plane or shooting them upwards with an artillery gun. The rain can help to clear air pollution—so much so that this technique was even used in China before the 2008 Olympics. Countries with lots of smog could one day use frequent cloud seeding to lower their pollution levels for healthier living for their residents.
3. Photosynthesis Bikes
What if you could clean the air on your way to work? This may soon be possible with a photosynthesis bike. The concept was proposed by a group of Thai designers who envision a bike that sucks in dirty air through the front and generates oxygen. It also has a lithium battery that helps out on the hills. Unfortunately, this design is currently only in the very early stages, hopefully, we will get to see these bikes in action soon!
4. Smog-Free Tower
Studio Roosegaarde has created an innovative device that provides the public with clean air and also, strangely enough, luxury jewelry. This specialized tower sits in a park in the Netherlands, in the city of Rotterdam, and offers “smog-free bubbles of public space, allowing people to breathe and experience clean air for free”. The pollution that is collected is then turned into high-end jewelry, which is a great ethical alternative to jewelry made from conflict gemstones and minerals.
5. Air Cleaning Buildings
Did you know that certain building materials can neutralize air pollution? When it comes into contact with light, titanium dioxide can do just that, creating safer and more breathable air. So far, a few buildings have been made using the material, including the Manuel Gea González Hospital in Mexico City and the Palazzo Italia in Milan. The only problem is that titanium dioxide is more expensive, but the result is worth it, don’t you think?
6. Rooftop Sprinklers
China is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to air pollution due to its immense industrial growth. Putting sprinklers on buildings that could water the city was proposed by Chinese geoengineering researcher Shaocai Yu as a solution to the smog-problem. Yu thought of this idea when seeing people water the plants in their garden and noticing the freshness that came afterwards.
7. Genetically Enhanced Plants
Photosynthesis works by turning sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and energy for plant growth. But did you know that plants don’t do too much to get rid of airborne toxins? Luckily, scientists at the University of Washington have created genetically engineered plants that have an added rabbit liver gene which allows their leaves to act like living livers. Biotech startup Origen Air is currently building an air purifier that uses these plants as a biofilter and will be available near the end of 2021.
8. Street Light Sensors
One of the biggest problems surrounding bad air quality is the lack of information. Because it is an “invisible” problem, it’s hard to get public and government support to solve it. Sweden has become the first country in the world to put air quality sensors in their street lights, which monitor which areas in town have the worst air and how the pollution levels change over time. This allows the government to work to preserve their air quality and keep their citizens safe.
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