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Bioengineered "superplant" could soon be purifying the air in your home

Bioengineered "superplant" could soon be purifying the air in your home
Once the Neo P1 is commercially available, pricing will start at $179
Once the Neo P1 is commercially available, pricing will start at $179
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The Neo P1's pot is made of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable bioplastic
The Neo P1's pot is made of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable bioplastic
Once the Neo P1 is commercially available, pricing will start at $179
Once the Neo P1 is commercially available, pricing will start at $179

We've all heard how it's a good idea to have plants in your home, as they help purify the air. Well, the bioengineered Neo P1 is claimed to excel in that department, as it's reportedly equivalent to up to 30 regular houseplants in terms of air purification.

Created by Paris-based biotech startup Neoplants, the Neo P1 is actually a genetically engineered type of pothos, a plant which is already known to be good at removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

The Neo P1 has been specifically designed to capture large amounts of four of the most toxic VOCs, namely formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and xylene. Genes added to its DNA cause it to produce enzymes which convert those compounds into harmless substances that are used by the plant. More specifically, formaldehyde is converted into fructose, while benzene, toluene and xylene are converted into an amino acid.

That being said, the Neo P1 does get a bit of help.

It comes with its own special soil which contains biochar, a charcoal-like material that is produced by heating biomass in an oxygen-free environment. Among other things, the biochar provides a home for beneficial microorganisms which are added to the soil once a month, in supplements known as Power Drops.

These microbes receive life-sustaining nutrients from the plant while simultaneously boosting its air purification performance – they also do some VOC-capturing of their own, as air flows through the soil via slots in the supplied pot. We're told that the plant-to-soil air purification ratio varies depending on the size of the plant, but that it should be about a 50:50 split once the Neo P1 reaches maturity.

The Neo P1's pot is made of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable bioplastic
The Neo P1's pot is made of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable bioplastic

Apart from adding the Power Drops, watering is the only required maintenance. Thanks to a reservoir in the pot, this reportedly only needs to be done once a month in the winter, and once every two weeks in the summer.

Users definitely will want to stay on top of that maintenance, though, as the Neo P1 should ultimately sell for a whopping US$179 a pop. That price includes three Power Drops – the cost of "refill" drops has yet to be determined.

So, why not just buy an electric air purifier that doesn't need sunlight, water or microbes?

"Air purifiers do a great job of capturing particulate matter (smoke from fires, for example), but it’s much more challenging to capture VOCs, which also cause significant health problems – most purifiers fail at doing this," Neoplants CEO Lionel Mora told us. "You buy a plant because it’s a beautiful living thing in your home that serves many purposes that an air purifier cannot. Not to mention that plants require zero electricity and make no noise. It also works 24/7."

If you're interested in getting a Neo P1 of your own, you can join the waiting list via the company website.

Source: Neoplants

Nice, I might pick one up, bit pricey though, I'll wait and see the price of those power drops, they better be very cheap or it's no deal.
Seems we need active farms of these on each rooftop everywhere.
Treon Verdery
They could add a soundless air mover like a soundless piezoelectric vibrator with a dollar store $1.25 photovoltaic to power it to move the air faster so as to be more beneficial
'Power Drops', huh?
Proprietary, as in secret patented formula, right?
'...the cost of "refill" drops has yet to be determined'.
All well and good, but... it doesn't actually, help to know that the plant removes as much xylene etc as 30 ORDINARY houseplants without knowing how much xylene is actually sitting around in your household air. It could be that 30 plant's worth only alters the concentration by 1% -- hardly worth it for $179. It could be that there IS no significant amount of xylene in the air of a typical household, so ZERO plants, even cheap plants you dug up from your garden, are needed. After all, xylene in particular is sold for "household" use pretty much only as a carburator cleaner or engine degreaser, intended to be used outdoors (and likely dangerous enough even in the open air, sure, but at concentrations no plant will touch, even enhanced).

I'd guess the same is true of toluene and benzene, although if you live next to a freeway you'll get some exposure from car exhaust (but then, you'll be exposed to LOTS of bad things in car exhaust -- like CO -- no matter what), oil based paints, and nail polish. Formaldehyde, OTOH, is almost certainly in your household at levels above outdoor air and below the 100 ppb limit considered "safe". However, our BODIES produce formaldehyde and have mechanisms in place to handle it. To pooh-pooh the notion that we need plants to control it in our homes (unless our homes are spectacularly unsafe in many other ways) I can do no better than quote from the current NIH report on the matter:

"If ever there were a compelling case for an evidence-based assessment of an extraordinarily large body of data, formaldehyde would appear to provide the perfect candidate. As a highly reactive, naturally occurring endogenous compound, with efficient metabolic mechanisms in place to protect against increases in concentrations in any tissues, there is a detailed understanding of formaldehyde-induced toxicity. Despite numerous epidemiology studies that have raised a specter of formaldehyde-induced NPC and leukemia, both endpoints now appear more likely to be false positives, as these findings are inconsistent with an ever-increasing body of data demonstrating that such effects simply cannot occur under any real-world exposure scenario. Why else would NAS, WHO, SCOEL, BfR, OECD, Health Canada, NICNAS, and for sensory irritation even US EPA (2005) reach conclusions essentially identical to those reached in the present review?"

In other words, in huge studies over long times at much, much higher industrial exposure levels, formaldehyde has been found to be no worse than an irritant to those particularly sensitive to it for one reason or another. And at <100 ppb, even that sort of irrltation is non-detectable.

So, to ME this looks like a very expensive solution that is looking for an actual problem. It is also highly amusing to me that they try to snare you further with special (expensive) "nutrient drops" to feed the "soil" they are grown in. Damn skippy they need something like this, as pothos roots so easily that it would become yard cancer if not controlled (like ivy, kudzu, etc). If I bought a single plant, I could cover the earth with its direct rootings with no further investment were it not for those "secret" drops.

Smacks of very modern snake il, targeted at very naive consumers who think that all organic chemicals are bad organic chemicals -- unless they are eating organic FOODS (that contain benzene, for example -- the NIH found benzene in all foods but vanilla ice cream and American cheese. Cheddar cheese, OTOH, had the highest concentrations found in any food! Take that, processed cheese enemies!) . This includes, of course, organic foods -- benzene again is a naturally occuring metabolite. I didn't bother to look up levels of toluene or xylene -- yes those really are baaaad for you in well documented ways at huffing concentrations, probably not super-good for you at levels of exposure in a modern garage, and almost certainly indetectably safe inside your home or office unless you use a lot of solvents indoors with terrible ventilation (or if ventilation just lets in exhaust from the superhighway 100 meters away).
Rocky Stefano
What a load of crap. But a plant for 4x regular asking, then it "needs" special and "power drops" to keep it going? To remove three arguably bad chemicals mostly found in a mechanic's garage. Please tell me where those chemicals occur in a household environment that would require this amount of effort and cost?
30 regular plants look prettier, and probably provide more health benefits.

Sales of "Himalayan rock salt lamps, for your health!!!" must be slowing, so they need a new gimmick.
Marco McClean
Wait till people find out that the /power drops/ get you high.
Ben - nice article but is this a paid advertisement? Yes, plants have been proven to pull formaldehyde out of the air - 4 or 5 similar plants without the biochar and microbes should suffice unless you have new carpeting, new paint, new formica, and other outgassing materials within your "tight" structure. I thought about transitioning to geothermal heat for my home and the company quizzed me about all my heat loss areas - window drafts, HVAC circuit, and when I told them 19050's electric house construction they laughed and said call us back when your house is sealed to a "tight" specification. In other words, one of those plants at $179 might clear the air - but the air in my house exchanges pretty freely with the outdoors so I'm helping my neighbors too - might as well just use 4 or 5 houseplants instead in my home. Until I win the lottery and rebuild it as a tight house!