China has the most polluted air in the world according to the World Health Organization, and each year it kills well over a million Chinese nationals. Although China is on track to lead the world in domestic renewable energy sources like solar, hydro, and wind, the country has also seen its fair share of more outside-the-box solutions to its pollution problem, such as the Chinese performance artist Brother Nut’s bricks made from vacuumed air particulates.
In 2016, a Dutch design studio unveiled a slightly more practical project called Smog Free Tower, a 23-foot structure that could purify up to 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour. It was a nice thought in principle, but not nearly enough to tackle China’s runaway pollution. So that same year, the Chinese government unveiled a massive, 20-story air purifier that could purify between 5 million and 18 million cubic meters of air each day.
The tower is located on the outskirts of Xian, a city of 8 million people in central China. According to the Chinese government, the tower—which is tucked between a number of high rise apartment buildings—can reduce the amount of airborne fine particulate matter (better known as PM 2.5) by up to 19 percent over an area of about 4 square miles. PM 2.5 are ultrafine particles found in air pollution that cause many of its deadly effects, such as lung diseases, heart diseases, and cancer.
According to Junji, about 100 towers would be needed to totally purify all the air in Xian. For now, however, the tower of is the only one of its kind in China and functions as a kind of experiment.
Read More: Can Snitching on Polluters Save Delhi’s Air?
“I questioned it myself,” Cao Junji, an environmental protection expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told AFP. “But when we finished the results were quite good. They met our expectations.”