This Breathing Device Might Be Fake But Who Knows, It's 2017

"Breathe your own forest."

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Sep 28 2017, 6:23pm

Beeld: Treepex

If you've been busy worrying about impending nuclear disasters, dwindling rainforests, and carbon emissions, just stop. There's a new device here to save us all.

Treepex is described as a small barrel-like object that you affix between your mouth and nose, designed to turn the polluted air that you breathe into clean air. The founders, Georgian entrepreneurs Lasha Kvantaliani and Bacho Khachidze, claim that the device can help provide clean oxygen while our forests shrink from human greed and negligence.

There's no projected launch date, no publicly available information about what it would cost, and we weren't able to verify if it actually exists, but Treepex is at the very least a symbol of our near and dystopian future. One in which we are all strapping oxygen masks to our faces just to walk out onto the street, go to a coffee shop, and live our lives.

This is how the Treepex mechanism is described in an introductory video: Scientists use CRISPR, the popular gene editing technology, to "extract DNA from trees to reproduce the living cell responsible for photosynthesis." Then they stuff these living cells in the device to ostensibly replicate the process of turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. Each cartridge is supposed to have the same amount of oxygen as a mature tree.

"Breathe your own forest," the announcer says.

Of course, there's also apparently an app. The Treepex app claims to measure how much carbon is turned into oxygen, and syncs with the device to remind you to change the cartridge periodically to make sure you're always getting fresh, breathable forest in your lungs.

It's hard to say if there's any validity to the Treepex mechanism—CRISPR is a fairly new gene editing technology and I'm not sure it can work to extract and reproduce tree cells. I'm also not sure the device is real: I emailed and tweeted at the company, and ordered a demo, but have yet to hear back.

It seems that Kvantaliani and Khachidze have been working in the environmental tech sector for a while. They had a project last year that gave people the opportunity to plant and track a tree through their app in an effort to offset carbon emissions. But in a Huffington Post interview, Khachidze said it wasn't taken up at the scale he was hoping for.

"Unfortunately, there was not enough interest in this approach, so we decided to find another way," he said.

Silver bullet attempts to fix our biggest world problems often fall horrendously flat because no one actually wants to tote these devices around, and they are hard to incorporate into daily life. For example, if LifeStraw, the plastic filter straw targeting the developing world, actually worked, nobody would be dying from waterborne illness anymore. But it doesn't filter out heavy metals or desalinate water, and hasn't caught on widely enough to make a big impact.

The fact remains that a company has created a website and video to promote a device designed to survive the destruction we've created in the form of deforested land and smoggy cities.

And our world is messed up enough that we might need it to be real.

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