An estimated 4 billion people live with hazardous levels of air contamination, most of them in Asia. Current efforts to reduce global air pollution are insufficient to combat atmospheric pollution.

To meet this challenge, XPRIZE is designing a prize competition that will achieve breakthroughs either in technology or innovation that eliminate or a dramatically reduce the amount of air pollution related to fine particulate matter -- and makes these innovations accessible globally.

Click on the Register button in the top-right corner to create an account and join this effort, or click here to learn more before signing up.

Putting ambient air removal solutions to the test

JessicaYoonJessicaYoon Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 39 XPRIZE
edited October 14 in Prize Design Analysis
Are there solutions that aim to remove pollution from ambient air, and how would you measure their effectiveness? How might you test for efficacy in both simulated and real-world situations, while also taking into account energy efficiency, cost, and the potential for secondary environmental impacts?


  • KeithDPatchKeithDPatch Principal Boston, MAPosts: 7
    Before I mix metaphors, are you talking about fine particulate matter (PM2.5), or about VOCs/SOx/NOx as some of the other post discuss?


  • JessicaYoonJessicaYoon Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 39 XPRIZE
    edited October 2
    Hi @KeithDPatch! Thanks for the follow-up question. For now, at this point in the prize design process, we're keeping it open to all sources of air pollution (either PM or aerosols, or both) for our experts to weigh in on how to best test their removal.
  • AdaryaniAdaryani Posts: 1
    edited October 3
    @jamesburbridge , @TerryMulligan , @JessicaYoon
    Hi all - To introduce myself, I've spent the past 2 years developing solutions to tackle ambient air pollution (Particulate matter removal without use of filters) at low cost in developing countries. Here's a short video CNN shot with me about my oldest technologies. We've actually been operating in stealth mode since this project has been bootstrapped entirely. We're currently installed in Mumbai, India and work out of Atlanta (Georgia Tech), Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and have on ground teams in India. Would love to be able to work towards the XPrize competition and speak to relevant people to disclose some of our tech. Eagerly look forward to hearing from you!

    CNN Video:

    LinkedIn about our project:
  • bartcbartc Chief of the Research Division (retired) Sacramento, California USAPosts: 8
    @JessicaYoon Pollutant removal from ambient air is inherently less efficient than removing it in its concentrated form from tailpipes (catalytic converters, diesel particle traps), smokestacks (baghouses, selective catalytic reduction [SCR]), gasoline refueling (vapor recovery), etc. And filtering air before it gets into classrooms, homes, bus and car cabins, etc. And limiting agricultural burning to days when atmospheric conditions are more dispersive and less likely to impact urban centers. These are the approaches we've successively taken in California. While ambient air removal makes more sense for pollution from uncontrolled upwind sources and less controllable sources such as construction and wind-blown dust, an enormous volume of air would need to be treated.

    Take for example Los Angeles County with its relatively dense population in an air basin with considerably less atmospheric dispersion.

    Volume of ambient air per day: 300 m inversion x 3 air exchanges per day (assume 3 m/sec wind and 80 km air basin length) x 10(+4) km2 land area / 3 (exclude mountains and deserts) = 3x10(+12) m3

    Volume of air inhaled per day: 10m population x 10,000 liters inhaled per adult per day = 10(+8) m3

    So 30,000 times the volume would need to treated than is breathed each day
    (higher if one takes into account lower breathing rates for children; lower taking into account filtration concentrated in densely populated public spaces)

    Mass of particles to be removed per day: 50 ug/m3 average daily PM2.5 (LA in the 1960s, Beijing and New Delhi are 2 and 3 times higher, respectively) x 3x10(+12) m3 = 150 tonnes

    2012 Los Angeles County emission estimates are 156 tons = 140 tonnes per day, so I think my calculations are in the ballpark when taking into account emission inventory uncertainties, 2012 vs 1960 air quality, background PM, etc.
  • MehtaMehta Posts: 2 ✭✭
    The main problem of ambient air quality in Asia is in the rural areas where communities still rely on fuel wood to meet their energy needs as its freely available. Due to use of low energy efficient and non smokeless stoves, the indoor pollution in the rural houses is even worst that the highly polluted cities like Delhi.
    There is an urgent need to promote energy efficient smokeless stove technologies in those areas and also introduce clean energy technologies like solar, bio-gas (animal and human waste).
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 68 admin
    Thanks @Adaryani , @bartc , @Mehta for your interesting inputs.

    Hello @hannusalmela , @gzeg , @Lyz , @csabine , @chrisfrider
    Given your experience in the field, we would love to hear your thoughts on removing ambient air pollution.
  • KeithDPatchKeithDPatch Principal Boston, MAPosts: 7
    Hi JessicaYoon--

    In that case, somebody needs to correct the bold text above:

    "eliminate or a dramatically reduce the amount of air pollution related to fine particulate matter"
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 68 admin
    I'd also like to ask @Alessandra , @mbanu , @OzFeron , @John_Kay and @dgoldber if you'll can help us answer @JessicaYoon questions? Thank you.
  • ShashiShashi Mumbai, IndiaPosts: 68 admin
    edited October 10
    Vertical Forest, Smog Free Towers, Air cleaning buildings, Electric Self Driving Cars, Air Purifying Clothes, Spider webs, Pollution Absorbing Street Furniture and Algae Curtains ( Are these feasible solutions to reduce Ambient Air Solution?

    If Yes; how do we test the efficacy of these solutions in real-world situations, while also taking into account energy efficiency, cost, and the potential for secondary environmental impacts? @hopkepk , @devinny , @peterstyring , @oscarr , @jwangjun , @kchance , @mskoehle We would love to hear your thoughts. Please join the discussion
  • jamesburbridgejamesburbridge Posts: 40 XPRIZE
    Fair point @KeithDPatch. Let me rephrase:
    How could we measure and validate solutions focused on removal of gaseous and particulate pollutants from ambient air? Are we talking about measuring actual captured pollutant in a real world test (seems nearly impossible given the sheer number of variables and interactions happening in the atmosphere?) or a relative improvement over a baseline in a laboratory? The latter seems more plausible, but maybe I'm missing something. Or is there a whole other way to test these types of solutions that we aren't seeing?
  • jamesburbridgejamesburbridge Posts: 40 XPRIZE
    Hi @bartc, good to hear from you. We have a pretty good sense of the audacity of what we are asking for here, but I think this is the only way to directly get at the challenge of directly dealing with LDD of air pollution, no? The more I research this problem, the more convinced I am that we need more solutions to deal with already released pollution. Further, while I don't believe a single solution will emerge as a cure-all for urban air pollution, the combination of smaller solutions could amplify each other's effectiveness and lead to meaningful reductions in local and LDD air pollution. It might be wishful thinking, but that is where the best XPRIZEs tend to live, IMO.
  • megXprizemegXprize Executive Accountant(Contributor) Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, NigeriaPosts: 37
    Building an air pollution sucking equipment at the location of the pollution is one of the ways. This equipment will remove the polluted air and only clean will be available.
  • megXprizemegXprize Executive Accountant(Contributor) Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, NigeriaPosts: 37
    Forestry and Planting of trees, Mechanised farming, Enhanced weathering, to move away from fossil fuel to alternative energies like solar energy, wind and geothermal.
  • KeithDPatchKeithDPatch Principal Boston, MAPosts: 7
    Hi @jamesburbridge, there are various e.g. US EPA analysis methods, such as EPA Method 5 for particulates, that provide legit data on gross and net pollution levels.

    These, or modified EPA etc. methods, provide legit methods to validate real-world performance of pollution control methods.
  • bartcbartc Chief of the Research Division (retired) Sacramento, California USAPosts: 8
    @jamesburbridge The global atmosphere is very efficient at removing health-damaging particle and gaseous pollution over the time scale of hours to days through rain out, chemical reactions (ultimately resulting in CO2 and H2O), and deposition on surfaces. Because pollution is relatively short-lived (compared to greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane), it's the fresh emissions that affect public health. Thus, pollution prevention will have immediate benefits, and it's much more efficient than ambient air removal, which has issues with cost, energy usage, scale, and waste disposal. New efforts on the air pollution problem seem better aimed at reducing costs, increasing effectiveness, and scaling up emission control technologies applied at the smokestack, truck exhaust, etc. for developing countries, as well as investing in monitoring technologies that would aid enforcement efforts by identifying the ~10% of super-emitting sources that appear to be responsible for ~50% of the total emissions across many sources types.

    Since much of the exposure to air pollution occurs in confined spaces during cooking (esp. women and young children in India and Africa), greater deployment of efficient stoves that can take advantage of local agricultural waste is needed.

    Pollution removal efforts would be advantageous in a few situations. Since much of the exposure to air pollution in cities occurs while driving or living in homes close to busy roadways, in-cabin or whole-home filters could be very effective. Also, a vehicle-mounted technology to remove road dust, brake wear, and tire wear has the advantage of removing concentrated pollutants near the source before they expose the public.
Sign In or Register to comment.