They look like something from a science fiction film: the industrial monoliths from “Blade Runner,” or perhaps the Martian pods in “War of the Worlds.” But in reality, these giant towers loom over the skyline of Delhi, in India, and land with benevolent intentions.
“The Smog Project,” designed by Dubai-based architecture firm Znera Space, is an ambitious proposal to clean the air in one of the world’s most-polluted cities.
“It’s a conversation starter,” says Najmus Chowdhry, principal architect for the concept. Chowdhry, raised in Chandigarh, about 150 miles north of Delhi, compares the nation’s capital to “a gas chamber,” but says politically “everyone is passing the buck.”
A rendering of the Moolchand flyover in Delhi, with an air filter tower in the background. Credit: Znera Space & R-Code
“The situation at hand is so grave that it requires a top-down scheme,” Chowdhry adds.
The Smog Project comprises a vast array of 328 feet-high air filtration pods, each capable of producing more than 353 million cubic feet of clean air per day, serving an area of 100 hectares, say its designers.
Inflows at the base of a tower suck in air and pass it through five stages of filtration — including charcoal-activated carbon, negative ion generators and electrostatically-charged plasma — to trap airborne particles. Air is forced upwards where it passes through a photo-catalyst filter to sterilize bacteria and viruses, before being released into the atmosphere.
Chowdhry describes it as a “feasible concept” and says a 15-20 meter-high (49-66 foot) prototype is at an “advanced conceptual level.”
Indian visitors sit on the steps outside Jama Masjid amid heavy smog in the old quarters of New Delhi on November 8, 2017. Credit: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Sumit Sharma, director of the Earth Sciences and Climate Change Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, describes Znera’s proposal as “commendable,” but offers caution.
“Considering the limitations of the technology in terms of its area coverage to treat widespread air pollution in the Delhi city, this is not the only solution we must rely upon,” he argues. “For long-term, wider-scale air-quality improvements, emission mitigation measures are required at the respective sources.”
Pratim Biswas, chair of the Department of Energy, Environment and Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St Louis, agrees. “Delhi needs to focus on deploying effective air pollution control technology at the source,” he wrote in an email to CNN.
Urban air filtration, he added, “would work in a neighborhood type concept — not a full megacity,” questioning the cost effectiveness of Znera’s design. Biswas didn’t dismiss urban air filters entirely though, describing them as “a secondary technique, and would be good for regional air cleaning (maybe around four or five skyscrapers).”
A localized approach is Znera’s initial aim, says Chowdhry, adding that doing so would still be a big step: “If we tackle one of the districts and see what the success rate is, I think that would basically quantify the success of the entire thing.”
But that is still a long way off. When pressed for a timeline, Chowdhry estimates a fully-functional prototype is still 2-3 years away.
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News credit : Cnn