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China Spends $2 Million On Innovative Smog-Sucking Technology

Each day, over 4,000 people die from air pollution in China. This is especially bad in urban areas, like Beijing. Luckily there’s been some inventions that have tried to clean up the smog. The Chinese government is also getting involved, and they’ve tested a prototype smog-sucking chimney in the city of Xian, led by chemist Cao Junji.

According to a study by Berkeley Earth, nearly 38 percent of the Chinese population breathes in air that wouldn’t be acceptable in the United States. Researchers took hourly readings at 1,500 different ground stations in mainland China and the surrounding area. The biggest problem is particulate matter that measures at under 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5).

At under 10 micrometers, this is coarse dust that can already get into our lungs and cause health problems. Particle pollution mostly affects children, older adults, and those that suffer from heart and lung disease. Even with healthy people, bad air quality is linked to coughing, reduced lung functions, and heart attacks.

$2 million has been invested in the new filtration system that’s hoping to provide a large-scale solution to the smog problem. It’s a near 200-foot prototype chimney made of concrete that sits on an open structure with a glass roof. Solar radiation will heat up the air and makes it rise through industrial filters and out the top of the chimney.

Because air pollution is highest during the winter, they first tested the prototype in the first two weeks of January. Junji, a chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, learned that up to eight million cubic meters of filtered air came from the chimney each day. There was also a 19 percent decrease of PM2.5 polluting the air.

There are skeptics that would like to see further information before fully supporting the potential smog solution. Neil Donahue, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, told Nature he’d like to see what’s needed to build these towers and what resources it uses outside of solar power to make it function. He also wonders if it can help with filtering various gases that causes particulate matter in the first place, such as nitrogen oxide.

Meanwhile, Junji sees tremendous potential for his new smog-sucking technology. He says it’ll take $30,000 per year to keep the prototype up and running. The product already removes nitrogen oxide. He’s looking at bigger towers in Xian, Guangzhou, Hebei, and Henan. Already, there’s a chimney designed at over 150 stories.

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