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These Creative Innovations Could Help Clear Air Pollution (and Make Diamonds!)

For years scientists have been trying to figure out what to do about our air pollution. Who knew diamonds could be involved?

There are many kinds of air pollution, and the two most prevalent are smog and carbon emissions. Smog is very common in cities, and it poses a huge health risk- smog has been linked to respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease. In China it is estimated 1.6 million deaths a year are due to air pollution.


The other very prevalent air pollution issue is carbon dioxide (CO2) and other carbon emissions. Our uses of fossil fuels and the removal of trees are contributing to global warming/climate change and yet many countries still do not use sustainable energy, despite it being entirely possible.
Our atmosphere is being overwhelmed by carbon emissions and our cities are only getting smoggier.

Thankfully, there are a few scientific breakthroughs that could mean great news for our planet. Though most of the inventions on this list don't target the carbon problem directly, they are fantastic solutions for the problem of the already existing carbon emissions and other air pollutants.

1. Converting carbon dioxide into rock

Most recently, scientists in Iceland figured out how to convert carbon dioxide into rock!
For years, scientists have been talking about a process called "carbon capture and sequestration." This involves pumping the gasses deep underground instead of allowing the gasses into the atmosphere, but has proved to be expensive and tedious. Scientists from Colombia University took a new approach to getting rid of carbon dioxide- by dissolving the gas into water, and then allowing it to react with certain kinds of rock. This then formed a mineral called calcite, locking the carbon dioxide away. The process has greatly exceeded expectations, with 95% of the carbon dioxide used in the process forming into the rock in just 2 years! The rock can then be stored in the ground, posing no risk to our environment anymore.

2. Turning smog into diamonds

A Dutch designer/architect has created an air cleaning "Smog Free Tower". This tower has the capability to clean the amount of air in a typical football stadium in just one and a half days. And that's not all- the smog particles collected are then put under immense pressure, producing diamonds in just half an hour. The diamonds can then be sold to fund more towers!
The tests done in Rotterdam have seen parts of the city with 70 to 75% cleaner air. Imagine the effect the towers could have once they are implemented?


(Image: studioroosegaarde.net)

3. Turning carbon emissions in cars into oxygen with algae

When he was just 17, Parum Jaggi invented the "Algae Mobile", a device capable of converting the carbon emissions from cars into oxygen using algae. The device won the US International Protection Agency's sustainability award at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
What's really special about this invention is that it targets the problem at the source. Before it even leaves the car, carbon emissions from the vehicle are converted into oxygen by the algae. Considering around 15% of our carbon emissions comes from transport, this device is hugely significant and could make a very positive impact.

4. Flowers that suck up smog

Engineers have developed a flower that could have the capability to suck up large amounts of smog! This new type of honeysuckle was created in Amsterdam with enhanced features so that it could absorb particle matter. The "Green Junkie" has more tiny hairs on it than the original honeysuckle, which allows it to pick air pollution out of the air. Tests have proved this flower successful, and now scientists are just trying to figure out what types of streets the flower would be used most effectively. Hopefully soon the Green Junkie can be used in many cities, not only Amsterdam.

5. A building that "breathes in" smog and converts it to salts

This innovative building has been created so that not only does it use 40% less energy than other buildings its size, it converts air pollution into harmless salts. The Palazzo Italia was showcased at the 2015 Milan Expo. The building is made up of 80% recycled materials and 900 biodynamic concrete panels that are responsible for capturing the pollution. The roof is made up of photovoltaic glass that generates electricity for the building. This building isn't just hugely innovative and great for the surrounding environment and city; it's also very stylish.
Imagine if more buildings in our cities were built like this?

These inventions are all innovative and have great potential, but it's unlikely they'll have much of an impact for a few years. In the meantime, you can learn how to reduce the air pollution in your home, or learn how to strategically place plants in your home that will improve the air quality.
You could also consider driving less, as our cars are definitely not helping the air pollution situation. Use public transport or ride a bike to get to work instead!


Read next: Air pollution facts that will leave you gasping

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