Bike sharing programs in China are big right now. There are over 30 Chinese start-ups and one of the largest of them all, Ofo, has about 2.2 million bikes in 43 cities. Daan Roosegaarde, an inventor from the Netherlands and the designer behind China's smog-sucking tower, wants to get in on the action with a bike that sucks up smog and releases clean air.
About three years ago his design and technology company, Studio Roosegaarde, launched the Smog Free Project, which started after he visited Beijing and saw the impacts of pollution. "Some days I couldn't see the other side of the street," he told me over the phone.
"The project is about the dream of clean air, clean water and clean energy," he said.
After the launch of the tower, Roosegaarde is planning on scaling down the same principle so it can work with bikes. He uses a positive ionization process to capture impossibly small dust particles that make up smog. Essentially what that does is attract positively charged particles in the smog to a negatively charged surface inside the tower, he said.
"In the process, the smog particles are compressed and they clutter together so they can't disconnect, and once they've connected on a negatively charged surface they're not fine dust anymore [because they've clumped together to form a larger mass], and every month or two you clean the surface," he said. Roosegaarde said that there has to be some sort of incentive to get people to return the bikes, because China has a problem with bike thieves.
"Maybe you return the bicycle when the filter is full and you get a reward," he said. "The reward system will be part of the design, but how and when I don't know yet."
Roosegaarde said the de-smogging process will be powered by a combination of power from pedaling and a small solar panel. However, the project is still in the early stages so he's not quite sure on all the details, price points, and timelines.
He said the response to the project has been fascinating. "In the last three days I've had calls from bike companies, people who want to work for us and mayors of cities [who want to implement it]."
Roosegaarde said he wants to focus on China first, where the bike is supported by the Chinese Central Government as part of its war on smog, but that doesn't mean he's not planning out the company's next steps.
"China is important for us because we've already had conversations with the government there," he said. "India is our next stop."
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