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Kraków’s smog free project

Daan Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower in Park Jordana in Kraków, Poland, works like a giant air purification vacuum cleaner. Such towers may in time dot the landscape, both rural and urban, just as solar panels and wind farms that are continuing to spread and provide cleaner energy across the world.

February 26, 2018 - Jim Blackburn - Stories and ideas

Image by Smog Free Project Rotterdam

Visitors to Park Jordana in Kraków may be surprised to find a seven-meter high purification tower. This is part of the Smog Free Project, which is the work of artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde. The Smog Free Tower works like a giant vacuum cleaner, as it purifies 30,000 cubic meters of air an hour while using as little energy as a kitchen water boiler. Some of the compressed carbon is then used to make Smog Free Rings, one of which will be on display at MOCAK, a contemporary art museum in Kraków.

Towers such as Roosegaarde’s may in time dot the landscape, both rural and urban, just as solar panels and wind farms that are continuing to spread and provide cleaner energy across the world. The efforts of the global community to combat climate change have begun to envision a future of a carbon “net negative” as the ideal goal – a future in which more carbon is being captured than released into the atmosphere.

The Smog Free Project was first constructed in Rotterdam in 2015 and was tested for a year before moving on tour to China that is known for its urban smog problems. China has been working on air purification projects itself, with the biggest on record working in Xian at 100 meters. This tower runs on solar power and is able to clean 9,910,896.31 cubic feet of polluted air per day. This is just the beginning, as air purifiers four times the size at 500 meters, with cleaning ranges of 20 kilometers are in the process of being built near several more Chinese cities.

Other are approaching the growing movement towards negative emission technologies as an investment that may pay dividends both monetarily and environmentally. Billionaires like Bill Gates are teaming up with Harvard physicists who are working on models of air purification systems that convert carbon pollution in the air into a carbon neutral fuel. Meaning not just a reduction in smog and climate change in general, but the beginnings of a whole new decarbonated fueled economy. Considering the transport of goods and people account for almost one third of the world’s air pollution it could be as profitable as it is revolutionary. The process already has a name, Air to Fuels (A2F), and though it has its detractors, debate within those working on the challenges of climate change is healthier than no conversation at all.

But you do not need to be Bill Gates to work on clean air oriented projects as Roosegaarde has demonstrated. His Smog Free Project was originally funded through crowdsourcing on Kickstarter back in 2015 (raising more than double the projects goal). The interest in clean air and health issues are widespread, as roughly 80 per cent of those living in urban areas often breath air at qualities well above the WHO’s guidelines. Moreover, a recent study shows a connection between higher crime rates and high levels of air pollution. This highlights how smog impacts not only personal health but the community.

Climate change will have to be tackled from many different angles. But a cultural shift is being felt around the globe that action must be taken. Wind farms have already proven themselves useful in creating clean energy and the idea of a carbon neutral fuel is promising considering the wealth and education of those involved. Also, Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Project shows how air purification can add to the urban landscape artistically while at the same time cleaning this same environment. It brings to mind that old Bob Dylan song that some of the answers to the problem of smog and climate change maybe “Blowin’ in the Wind”.

The Smog Free Tower is open free of charge from February 16th to April 15th. MOCAK will host the Smog Free Project Pop Up Exhibition and have a Smog Free Ring on display.

Jim Blackburn is a freelance journalist based in Poland. 

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