Giant vacuum cleaner sucks up urban pollution

To combat air pollution, Envinity Group has developed a vacuum cleaner-like system that can scrub almost all particle pollutants out of the air(Credit: Envinity Group)

After 100-odd years of factories and cars belching out pollutants, the air we're breathing is far from fresh. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers airborne particles to be the most damaging pollutant to human health, and now a Dutch company has developed a creative solution: a giant vacuum cleaner that pulls in the equivalent of 32 Olympic swimming pools of air every hour and scrubs almost all toxic particles out of it. The end result is air that complies with European legislation on fine particle emissions.

According to WHO, an estimated 3 million premature deaths were the result of outdoor air pollution in 2012, and a whopping 92 percent of the world's population is living in areas with higher levels of airborne particles than is deemed safe. Both fine (defined as particles under 10 microns wide) and ultra-fine particles (those under 0.1 microns) are responsible, and over the years, we've seen some creative methods of combating the problem, like putting up huge bubbles of clean air over parks, installing purifying billboards and a Smog Free Tower in Beijing.

It's in this vein that Envinity Group throws its outdoor vacuum cleaner into the mix. The system is designed to sit on a rooftop in populated areas, or near sources of pollution like factories, and pull in 80,000 cubic meters (2.8 million cubic feet) of air per hour. Its reach extends as far as 300 m (984 ft) around it and 7 km (4.3 miles) directly upwards. Then, according to the company, a series of sub-processes filters out 100 percent of fine particles and 95 percent of ultra-fine ones, leaving the air clean and compliant with European legislation on the subject.

Though the Envinity Group unveiled the system at the Offshore Energy conference in Amsterdam this week, there's very little detail available on the device. We've contacted the company to find out how the particle waste is handled, for power and technical details and to see when the giant air purifier is likely to be released. We'll update you if/when we get a response.

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