Krakow’s pollution solution

Plenty of positive change is underway in the Polish city of Krakow, the capital of the Malopolska Region. This science and education hub that’s home to 23 higher education institutions and 180,000 students has been stepping up its game to become a more modern—and green—city for citizens to live in. Start-ups and incentive companies are moving headquarters to post-industrial areas and infrastructure is improving thanks to the construction of the first subway line. Now the city is looking to solve another one of its environmental issues: smog. A 7-meter-high tower is helping to filter the city’s air by sucking up pollution in the latest attempt at a smog-free city.-Bruno De Man 


Smog vacuum cleaner

Poland is home to 33 of Europe’s 50 most-polluted cities, with air pollution in Krakow reaching six times the amount of safe levels on a high-smog day. As part of a Kickstarter-funded project, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde designed an air purifier to help improve air quality in public parks like Krakow’s Jordana Park. Dubbed the world’s first “smog vacuum cleaner,” the Smog Free Tower can filter toxic filth at a rate of 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour—while using roughly the same amount of electricity as a water boiler. The tower initially debuted in Rotterdam in 2015 before spreading to four Chinese cities one year later on a mission with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection to help clean up the country’s air. While the tower has already been commissioned in heavily polluted countries like Mexico and India, cities in Europe like Paris and London are also considering this urban solution as one way to purify the air in an environmentally friendly—and energy efficient—way. “Pollution has become very physical and the city has become a machine that is killing us,” Roosegaarde said in an article in easyJet Traveller. “I thought, ‘If a painter has paint, why don’t I use smog particles to design and engineer with?’” By emitting a small positive current, an electrode sends positive ions into the air, which latch on to fine dust particles. A counter electrode then draws in positive ions that are collected along with the fine dust particles and stored inside of the tower. According to Roosegaarde in a quote in The Independent: “This technology manages to capture ultra-fine smog particles which regular filter systems fail to do.” With a design that’s considered as intriguing as contemporary art sculptures, the tower will not only make parks like the one in Krakow cleaner, they’ll be design savvy as well.