Carbon ‘dating’ with Smog-made Diamonds

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Diamond forever and smog – never. Who would have imagined that thoughts so extremely opposite could be blended into one fantastic, futuristic invention that can keep everyone in awe. Over the last couple of years, social media has been flooded with the video of China’s machine that… Featured image is intended for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Diamond.JPG

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Diamond forever and smog – never. Who would have imagined that thoughts so extremely opposite could be blended into one fantastic, futuristic invention that can keep everyone in awe. Over the last couple of years, social media has been flooded with the video of China’s machine that converts smog into diamonds. Intrigued, I’ve delved into the technology and the patents powering it.

The smog inspiring story…

Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde once looked out of his window in Beijing and was shocked to find that the smog enveloping his surroundings was so dense that the city was almost invisible. Eight-year-olds in the city had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and the filthy air had reduced residents’ life expectancy by approx. 15 years! Horror struck him, and he realized that we are totally off track from the bright future people envision for the next generation by bringing about all other technological advances and luxuries. From luxury automobiles, hi-tech gadgets, artificial intelligence grandeur to immersive experiences – but can anything be of more importance than clean air to breathe?

This inspired Daan and his team to build the largest air purifier in the world –the Smog Free Tower. This seven-meter high tower sucks up (using patented positive ionization technology) 30,000 cubic meters of polluted air per hour and releases clean air back into the city after processing and cleaning it at the nano level — the PM2.5, PM10 particles. This leaves the air around the tower nearly 55 to 75 percent cleaner than the rest of the city. The effect of the Smog Free Tower has been validated by survey results compiled by the Eindhoven University of Technology.

How the Smog Free Tower works

The Smog Free Tower is a collaboration between Daan Roosegaarde, Delft Technology University researcher Bob Ursem, and European Nano Solutions (ENS), a green tech company in Netherlands. Bob Ursem, the brain behind the technology, has been researching ionization since the early 2000s. According to him, the tower includes a radial ventilation system at the top to inhale dirty air (neutrally charged). This air enters a chamber where particles smaller than 15 micrometers are given a positive charge. The positively charged particles attach themselves to a grounded counter electrode in the chamber. The cleaned up air is then expelled via vents in the lower part of the tower surrounding the structure in a bubble of clean air.

Notably, Delft University of Technology and Ursem have multiple patents that disclose various fluid purification systems. Patent US8574345, for instance, discloses removal of smut, fine dust and exhaust gas particles from the polluted air including providing a particle catch arrangement using a static electric field. Another recent patent US9604228 granted to Delft provides a gas purification system, comprising a counter electrode, a conductive strip with a longitudinal edge comprising tooth structures.

Figs 2a and 5c of Patent US8574345 provides a method for the removal of smut, fine dust and exhaust gas particles from polluted air.

Carbon ‘dating’ with a diamond

What is even better is that the tower is powered by solar energy. Truth to be told, this in itself is a great invention, but Daan’s team did not stop there. They realized that 42% of the sooty, polluted residual material that is filtered out of the air is nothing but carbon, which when compressed can yield real diamonds!

The smog particles collected were compressed for 30 minutes to turn them into dark gemstones that could be used for jewelry – rings and cufflinks – a perfect waste to wonder miracle! Interestingly, the profit accrued by selling these jewelry is used to finance the construction of more such air purifiers. Unbelievable as it may sound, each such diamond represents 1,000 cubic meters of pollution.

Smog Diamond. Source: Bic (Wikimedia Commons)

Daan is now headed to other cities of the world after having shown the first ray of hope in Beijing and Rotterdam. Delhi, the capital of India, for instance, has been smog-ridden and almost inhabitable in recent times, and Daan’s plan to build a Smog Free Tower in the capital emboldened the hopes of millions in the country to be able to breathe fresh, clean air again.

That apart, Studio Roosegaarde, the social design lab that Daan runs out of Rotterdam and Shanghai, has also brainstormed a range of smog-free bicycles in partnership with ofo, the leading Chinese bike sharing program. These innovative bicycles inhale polluted air, clean it, and produce clean air, helping riders breathe clean in the fresh air bubble around. Though not as large-scale as the tower, but this individual effort not just lets the cyclist celebrate the joy and health benefits of cycling, but also cleans the air, creating a bigger impact on the larger urban scale.

In Daan’s words “It’s all about connecting new technology with creative thinking. If you start thinking about that, there is so much you can imagine, so much more you can do.”

Featured image is intended for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Diamond.JPG

Subhasri Das
Subhasri Das

Subhasri is a technocrat who enjoys reading between the lines of patents to understand their hidden value.


2 Comments

  1. Wonderful article – worth a technique – to be adopted by Delhi masses
    I am writing a paper on eradicating air pollution by identifying air pollutants in the air (particles) and inactivating them – particles of CO, NO2, Sulphur dioxide, etc. – I was trying to track methods to identify these Nano structured particles from air – Is there a patent on this? Or a method that operates at such Nano scale level?
    Your help would be highly appreciated

    Thank you

    1. I’m glad you liked my post. Here is an exemplary (not exhaustive) list of patents which disclose detection of air pollutants at a nano-scale:
      US9791403 B2, US7661483 B2, US20080307960 A1, CN105080498 A, US6417423 B1, US20170307509 A1, US9151724 B2, US8441636 B2, WO2016145300 A1, US20170281993 A1, US8277767 B2 and US7052854 B2.
      Hope this will help you in your research.

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