Skip to main content

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.

China's toxic smog problem
China's smog soars
Smog in China kills millions prematurely

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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general has confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
updated 1:07 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
A group in China escapes from a stuck elevator thanks to one man and his trusty hammer. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Facebook's founder says he taught himself Mandarin and tested his skills with students in China.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
China launched an experimental spacecraft that is scheduled to orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Full marks for ingenuity: This was a truly high-tech scam.
updated 1:26 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The rationale behind Confucius Institutes -- an international chain of academic centers run by an arm of the Chinese government -- is understandable.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
updated 1:11 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
ADVERTISEMENT