Prize Design Research Question

What existing or proposed solutions are out there for tackling particulate pollution’s reduction or removal?


  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 566 admin
    Hi @CPConsoli @John_Kay @jmmatter @kevincharlesobrien @David_Addison,
    As an expert in this field, would love to gain your inputs and experiences on the existing and proposed solutions to tackle particulate pollution.
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 566 admin
    Hi Dan and Adam, @DanBowden, @akb
    May be you'll have an answer to Terry's question on existing or proposed solutions to tackle particulate pollution.
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    A common approach to tackle particulate pollution is to filter out particles at source. This can be a physical filter or an electrostatic filter (or both). However, they do not always catch all particles and the small particles [known to be a serious health issue] might pass through.

    Note also that some particles can form after the exhaust emissions enter the air, e.g. condensing of volatile compounds and vapours, and reactions with other chemicals in the atmosphere.

    Another practical issue with filtering particulates is that in reality the maintenance and operation of such devices can be inadequate - leading to higher real world emissions than those expected based on theory.

    So particulate (and other air pollutant) emissions are unlikely to be brought to zero until we abandon the use of combustion processes. [Even burning a clean fuel like hydrogen in air has the potential to emit nitrogen oxides (another significant pollutant).]
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 566 admin
    Thanks Adam for your inputs on tackling particulate pollution @akb
    Please check Dan's awesome work in this area here.
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    Hi @Shashi - that's an interesting bit of research. Thanks.

    Here's an experiment we can all do. Some might find it shocking (rightly so perhaps).

    Get in a car, and with a clean white sheet of tissue, wipe it across the inside of the car windscreen. Take a look at the tissue.

    That black substance (which includes particulates) is inhaled into the lungs of people inside the car! Some studies show that air quality is worse inside a car than outside (e.g. on the footpath).
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    Tip: close the air inlet in the car when you suspect high pollution levels.
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 566 admin
    That's an Interesting piece of information. @akb
    Is there any practical solution which has been carried out to avoid it.
  • akbakb Posts: 204 ✭✭✭
    For the average user: close the air inlet in the car when you suspect high pollution levels.
    Some vehicles can have filters fitted to the air intake (but see the limitations, above).
  • TerryMulliganTerryMulligan Posts: 38 XPRIZE
    edited August 2019
    Thanks for the tip and experiment Adam. @akb
    I tried it myself, it was a very visual and unsettling demonstration of air pollution.

    I'm curious if anyone in the community can share additional examples of air pollution projects that are underway that hope to target filtering particulate matter at a city-wide scale - similar to what we have seen with the 100-meter tall air purification tower in Xian?
  • DanBowdenDanBowden United StatesPosts: 3
    Hey All,

    I have a formative approach, which is based on a 3 pronged attack of the 3R's: Reduce, Re-use & Relate (this probably needs work!).

    Reducing air pollutant at creation is of course the best option. Not always easy but easier than capturing particulate matter eg how do you capture air pollution from the friction from brakes and tyres? As we all know it's not just about emissions ""a UK study showed that brake, tyre and road surface wear made up 60 percent of air pollution emissions for particles 2.5 micrometres in diameter, and 73 per cent of the particles that were 10 micrometres in diameter."
    ie it's super hard to capture/filter the friction emissions, you're better to target a better tyre or better still focus on public transport.

    Personally, I adore this type of project, which is equally, if not more, driven by the desire to make our cities more livable and beautiful places to be.

    As @akb mentioned, filtering at source is of course an option and a good one. The filtration is traditional, but I believe there is potential and a need for more innovative solutions wherein what is captured is also re-used and thereby becomes a valuable commodity.

    For example, our friends (we live in their old offices in New Zealand) over at LanzaTech ( use microbiology to recycle carbon. I appreciate they are not focused on particulate matter but the point remains. As a slight diversion, also look at our other friends at Mint Innovation who use similar concepts to recycle e-waste ( without the nasty chemicals and will be extracting valuable resource in local (suburban level) green plants. The point being, filtering is cool, but local extraction and conversion into a a valuable good as part of a circular economy is even better.

    Other kinda fund examples include: ;

    We (O2O2) are a bit more radical in that true change occurs when society enacts change ie you relate those at risk to the problem. Hence, we also believe that part of the solution is to empower those at risk to enact change ala or in a more PR driven way

    Here's the point, made best by Louis Brandeis when speaking about the impact streetlights had on crime:
    "Sunlight is the best disinfectant" (sic)
    And yes, the introduction of street lights reduced crime... but the impact is even greater when it comes from light spilling from a persons house. Our view is clear, shed light on the issue, and make sure the light is shed from those impacted - those who live in the city.

    At O2O2, we're working on a project which we are hopeful can focus on our areas of expertise and creating an impact model of how we can create more systemic change.
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 566 admin
    Thanks for sharing these inputs @DanBowden.
    @jamesburbridge @djaffe @rgschreib May be you'll can provide some feedback on Dan's formative approach. Please join the discussion.
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