Cities all over the world are struggling with air pollution. Delhi, Beijing, Karachi, Los Angeles, Mexico City. All of these cities are notorious for their poor air quality. Living in a smoggy city means that have a higher risk of a number of health problems, including asthma, heart disease and stroke. High levels of air pollution also deplete the ozone layer, which exacerbates global warming. We desperately need a viable and efficient way to tackle urban pollution.
Air pollution has also become more of an issue for some cities recently. London is now experiencing an air pollution crisis. Over 9,000 residents die every year because of poor air quality. Findings show that:
“7.9 million Londoners live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization air quality guidelines by at least 50%.”
However, a German startup called Green City Solutions has come up with an ingenious way to tackle urban pollution. It has created something called the ‘CityTree’, “a mobile and intelligent air filter”.
The company highlights on their website that 90% of all city dwellers breathe in dirty air every day; 7 million people die every year due to air pollution; and an estimated 1.3tr Euros are lost annually in Europe because of air pollution. But the CityTree offers a unique solution to this alarming problem.
How the CityTree can tackle urban pollution
The CityTree isn’t actually a tree, but a wall of densely packed moss culture, housed in a metal frame. It can filter as much air as 275 trees can filter in a year. Which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that the unit has an area of only 3.5 square metres. This makes the CityTree extremely efficient. Zhengliang Wu, co-founder of Green City Solutions, says:
“Moss cultures have a much larger leaf surface area than any other plant. That means we can capture more pollutants.”
The CityTree is also able to improve air quality in a sustainable way. As TreeHugger reports:
“The installation powers itself through its solar panels, and rainwater is collected and automatically redistributed using a built-in irrigation system. Sensors can be added so that data can be collected on the CityTree’s performance.”
The CityTree has already proved to be an attractive investment, with around 20 units installed in Paris, Oslo, Brussels and Hong Kong. There are plans to install the CityTree in other countries around the world. Politicians and city planners should take note of the considerable benefits to air quality and public health that would result from adding these units to the urban environment.
Each unit costs $25,000, which may not seem cheap at first glance. But when you think about the environmental, health and financial cost of air pollution, it seems like a no-brainer to make the investment.
The CityTree is an innovative, practical and efficient way to remove CO2, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from the air. It is of paramount importance for cities to take on board these kinds of technologies. Failing to do so would be completely misguided.
Possible applications for space travel
Although a unit like this wouldn’t be necessary on a spacecraft, since such vessels do not need to remove pollutants from the air, the technology involved could still be relevant. For example, plants will need to be grown during the mission to Mars, and this presents many challenges.
One of the obstacles involved is figuring out how to create an efficient watering system, so that precious resources can be recycled. The built-in irrigation system used in the CityTree may provide inspiration for long-duration space missions in the near future.
Although the kind of watering system used for growing crops on a spacecraft will be different from that used in the CityTree, the principle of how water is conserved may still apply.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, animal agriculture, nutrition, wellbeing and smart drugs. He is also currently writing a book about the psychedelic drug DMT.