China is famous for a multitude of reasons, but being one of the smoggiest places on Earth isn’t one it’s exactly proud of. Caused by traffic, indoor heating, construction, and power plant emissions, this country is practically obscured by the smog on occasions, as is much of the country. As a result, millions die prematurely each year there from related cardiovascular or respiratory problems.
In order to stave off these deaths somewhat, and until the authorities reduce its suffocating traffic problem, gigantic air purifiers will have to do. As highlighted by the South China Morning Post, China is so keen on this technology that it’s built what is likely to be the world’s tallest.
It’s 100 meters (328 feet) high, and it can be found in Xian, up in the northern Shaanxi province. Its design is not that energy intensive. Polluted air finds its way into greenhouses at the base, which heat the air up, causing it to rise through a series of filters.
As noted by The Beijinger, the tower was inspired by a 2014 paper by the University of Minnesota, which describes the design – a “solar-assisted large-scale cleaning system.” The Xian tower was built in 2016.
This colossus, which is slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty, was conceived by the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and it’s reportedly already done a good job clearing up the air in the city.
We hope so: Although Beijing gets all the ignominious attention in this regard, Xian is a heavily polluted place to be too, with its toxic particulate levels often way in excess of the World Health Organization’s recommended safety limits.
Treating the air in an area of about 10 square kilometers (3.9 square miles), it produces 10 million cubic metres (353 million cubic feet) of cleaner, less particulate-dense air per day. As a point of comparison, a far smaller tower in Beijing cleans 720,000 cubic meters (25.4 million cubic feet) of air per day, 14 times less than the newly constructed beast of Xian.
To be fair, though, no peer-reviewed data has yet been made available to back up these new claims.
The massive monolith has reportedly already been able to reduce smog to “moderate” levels, which sounds good until you realize that any smog whatsoever is a sign of a crisis yet to be solved.
Transportation is a major contributor to air pollution – and climate change, via the generation of petrol. Arguably China’s overarching problem is that it’s still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, particularly coal, whose use generally tracks with the economy.
It seems that those famous smogpocalypses that smother Beijing – turning it into a far grimmer version of Bespin’s Cloud City – are made worse by the melting of Arctic ice. This alters atmospheric currents and makes the air over the capital remain stationary and stagnate, which prolongs the length of the smog visitations.
This, as well as appearing benevolent on the international stage as America abdicates responsibility, is why China is now doing something about both.
Fortunately, the country is now building wind, solar, and nuclear power plants at a breakneck pace, and it’s working with US states and Europe to develop new technologies that will ease the transition into a low-carbon world. Tesla may get all of the attention, but lest we forget that plenty of the world’s electric car companies are based in China.
Gigantic air purifiers are great, but they’re a short-term fix, one that helps but ultimately obfuscates the underlying problems.