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Daan Roosegaarde's 'vacuum cleaner' to suck smog from Beijing skies

By Katie Hunt, CNN
updated 7:14 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
Artist Daan Roosegaarde hopes to create columns of clean air for Beijing's surgical-mask wearing residents.
Artist Daan Roosegaarde hopes to create columns of clean air for Beijing's surgical-mask wearing residents.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dutch artist and designer has come up with a device that aims to suck pollutants from air
  • Technology will be tested in a Beijing park
  • Project aims to draw attention to smog rather than provide long-term solution

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A Dutch artist and designer has come up with a device he hopes will suck pollutants from Beijing's smog-cloaked skies, creating columns of clean air for the city's surgical-mask wearing residents.

An electromagnetic field generated by copper coils will pull airborne particles in the smog to the ground where they can be easily cleaned.

"It's like when you have a balloon which has static (electricity) and your hair goes toward it. Same with the smog," says artist Daan Roosegaarde.

His studio has reached an agreement with the Beijing government to test the technology in one of the capital's parks.

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With its skies regularly shrouded by filthy gray smog, Beijing this week unveiled a series of emergency measures to tackle the problem.

Roosegaarde says an indoor prototype has already proven it works and is confident the results -- with the help of a team of scientists and engineers -- can be replicated outside:

"Beijing is quite good because the smog is quite low, it's in a valley so there's not so much wind. It's a good environment to explore this kind of thing."

"We'll be able to purify the air and the challenge is to get the top of the smog so you can see the sun again."

Roosegaarde acknowledges that projects like this are a way of drawing attention to the problem, rather than a viable solution to Beijing's dire air pollution.

"This is not the real answer for smog. The real answer has to do with clean cars, different industry and different lifestyles."

However, he hopes the project will make a "radical statement" by allowing the city's residents to realize the difference between breathing clean and smog-filled air.

"I want to take a park in Beijing, 50m by 50m square, and make it the cleanest park in Beijing," he says. He is still discussing with local authorities which park will be used.

Roosegaarde's studio has worked on several projects that use static electricity in unusual ways; creating a road that charges electric cars and a floor that generates electricity when danced on.

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