Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto from ecoLogicStudio present a shading system with microalgae cultures that filter CO2 from the air: "Photo.Synth.Etice".

On water and in the air

Polluted water, contaminated air – two of the most serious forms of environmental impact worldwide. Designers and architects are attempting to provide relief through sustainable approaches.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 11/20/2019

Air for breathing and clean drinking water are two natural resources, without which mankind cannot exist. Given the increasing level of environmental pollution, creatives are trying to make a virtue out of necessity – Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto from ecoLogicStudio recently presented a lightweight shading system which filters CO2 from the air: “Photo.Synth.Etica” is made of bioplastic and consists of lots of small modules, in which there is a gel of micro algae cultures. Because the algae are small, a large number of organisms can be accommodated in a small space, and they reproduce quickly. With the help of natural daylight, the units then function like photobioreactors, which absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. At the moment the prototype is capable of processing a kilogram of CO2 per day – the equivalent of what 20 big trees manage. The system can be positioned as a transparent curtain on the facade of new and existing buildings. Hung in front of a facade, the bio-curtain transforms it into a bright green, biotechnological micro-forest. When it is dark, the biomass generates weak light. In addition to its function as an air purifier, when erected in the public domain “Photo.Synth.Etica" can serve shading purposes and as a partition.

Air purification in the tower

The Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde has had his eye on nitrogen oxides, i.e., fine particles, for several years now: He realized the "Smog Free Tower", whose prototype was built in Rotterdam and now travels the world. The exterior of the seven-metre-high tower is surrounded by angled louvers manufactured by Colt, a specialist in building services engineering. The outside air is sucked in and purified using filter technology on the inside of the tower: Copper coils charge the fine particles in the air electrically and filters bind them. What is left is clean air, which the tower releases to the outside world. For cleaning purposes, part of the lamella facade can be raised like a blind. Roosegaarde turns the smog particles the “Smog Free Tower” filters from the air into jewelry: the “Smog Free Ring” has an artificial precious stone made of dark black smog. The little energy the tower requires comes from green energy. You can also reduce the level of air pollution with your own muscle power, by means of a similar filter system in a mini-format: Attached to the handlebars of Daan Roosegaarde’s “Smog Free Bicycle” is a box which sucks in and purifies the city air as you are cycling along.

Dubai-based architecture studio Znera is currently working on a concept for several towers that will help reduce air pollution. The buildings in the Smog Project, which are each a good 100 meters high, are desined to purify the air in a radius of 1.2 miles around them in Delhi, India, the “smog capital of the world”. In total, each of the smog absorption towers could produce 3.2 million cubic meters of clean air every day. The Znera team intends to use hydrogen and solar energy to operate the filter systems. Nor is there any lack of creative ideas when it comes to processing all the fine particles collected: The start-up Graviky Labs is planning to produce refillable markers with the high-carbon pollutants filtered from the air. The prototypes currently have four different degrees of thickness, from 0.7 to 50 millimeters. The filling for the 50-millimeter thick marker corresponds to the exhaust from a diesel car on a 130-minute journey. “Air Ink” is thus produced without burning additional fossil fuels, as would be the case with traditional ink. Furthermore, the color of the markers is especially deep black and matt.

AIR-INK: First inks made from air pollution

Purifying tiles

In her research work the architect Shneel Malik, a PhD student at the Bio-Integrated Design Lab at Bartlett School of Architecture in London, addressed the purification of contaminated water: As the result of the “Indus” project, Malik presented tiles, whose relief-like structure is coated with an algae-based hydrogel. These filter heavy metals and dyes from wastewater or – when positioned on a facade – from rain water as well. The tiles create a bioreactor, as it were, which purifies water as it runs across them. Local craftsmen could produce the tiles using individual, traditional techniques. For the production of the hydrogel itself, which will be available in powder form, all that is needed is water. Public water could then be purified cheaply, sustainably, and comparatively easily anywhere in the world.

On the handlebar of the "Smog Free Bike" by Daan Roosegaarde there is a box which sucks in and cleans the city air while cycling.