Can air pollution be controlled by drones?

1) Air pollution is referred to any contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment that modifies the characteristics of the atmosphere. Although more research is required to further understand the role poor air quality and multi-pollutant exposure plays in health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together, this r4epresents 11.6% of all global deaths.

Major sources of air pollution vary from country to country and in every city, depending on their infrastructure and industrial activities, but in general, common sources include motor vehicles, household combustion devices and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities.

Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. (EPA)

The most relevant issue in this problem is that once the pollution has been produced it is very difficult to clean because of dispersion, and while reducing the pollution production is a relatively simple solution ( through filters and catalytic combustion, etc) once the pollution is diffused in the environment, it becomes a very complex problem to solve, mainly because of the dimension of it. In other words, it is impossible to clean all the air in the atmosphere. china-may-use-drones-to-kill-the-smog-problem

2)Nonetheless, China is investing a large quantity of money to fix this difficult problem, and many innovative solutions are being implemented, such as air purifiers the size of buildings, or mist cannons that nebulizer liquids to trap harmful particles, but still, these solutions face the great challenge of diluted pollution and large dimensions.

A novel solution that is being tried is the smog-busting drones, the idea is to use drones to spray chemicals [liquid nitrogen],  to solidify pollutants in the air and fall to the ground.

“When liquid nitrogen is dispersed in air, it readily absorbs heat from the surrounding atmosphere, causing water vapor to instantly condense. The condensate would drag down particulate matter along with it as it falls to earth” Emily Carino-postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering with a PhD from the University of Texas

The chief executive of the company, Ma Yongsheng, he explained that drones have a reach of 5km and can carry 700 kg of smog-clearing chemicals, and have conducted over 100 hours of testing flight. [South China Morning Post]

Nonetheless, there is a big international opposition to this approach of geoengineering, mainly because of two postures, exposed by Emily Carino, from the University of Texas.

The first one is the effect that this chemical rain can have on citizens. “Used improperly, liquid nitrogen is dangerous: It can cause severe cold burns if it comes in contact with skin, and items cooled by liquid nitrogen can stick fast to human skin when touched.”

And the second is the risk of the unintended consequences of such chemical reaction, not only because the reaction occurs so quickly, but also because nitrogen outperforms all other agents during the reaction.

3) This technology is mainly to be deployed by the government since air pollution or air quality is a public good.

4) The steps to deploy this technology are to run a pilot and have an important and solid baseline to compare the improvements as well as the unintended consequences.

Nonetheless, I am very skeptical about the impact of this technology application due to the unintended consequences, and most importantly it is important to point out the irrational thinking of creating rain from pollutants, instead of deploying filters and air pollution control systems in the industry and combustion vehicles.


Images sources: Image 1, Image 2

Until we are able to pollute less – Smog Filtering Towers can help clean the air



  1. Sustainability Problem: Air pollution in cities causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as premature death. Category: Health
  2. Possible tech solution: Smog Filtering Tower.

  • The City of Rotterdam in the Netherlands was the first in the world to open a smog-free tower.
  • The vacuum-cleaner like structure is seven meters high. It sucks in dirty air, filters it using Ion technology, and return clean air into the atmosphere.
  • Every hour, the tower can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air.
  • Verification tests have shown that the tower improves outdoor air quality by up to 60%, and indoor air quality (such as in parking garages) by up to 70%.
  1. Organizational Stakeholders: Citizens in highly polluted cities, local environmental organizations, private Genentech companies, municipal departments of environmental protection, local political leaders.
  2. Steps in deploying the technology:
    • Obtain political buy in from local stakeholders
    • Secure financial support (can be PPP that brings together local public and private organizations)
    • Design smog filtering tower that meets specific needs of the interested city (size, aesthetics, location, etc.)
  3. Comment on “Elevated bike path concept to fight congestion” by Pablo Mandiola

The proposed technology does not make cycling safer, as mentioned in your post. In fact, regular bicycles would not be welcomed on the proposed elevated lane network, as it is designed to accommodate electric bikes, scooters and other two-wheelers that BMW manufactures.

While the idea is interesting, if the ultimate goal is to reduce GHG emissions and promote low carbon transportation methods – we should be reducing paved road miles and not increasing them. Rather than building an additional road network, I would propose re-purposing vehicle lanes into bike and public transportation lanes, which would reduce the need and convenience of private vehicles on roads and reduce emissions from transportation.

Commercial Fusion Energy

1) Sustainability Problem: Air Pollution

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, power generation is one of the leading causes of air pollution; based on research collected in 2010, U.S.-based power plants are the single largest factor contributing to global warming

2) Technology – Fusion Energy

The nuclear-fusion-energy power plant, which is being developed by the Canadian Company, General Fusion is intended to be the first commercially viable nuclear-fusion-energy power plant.

  • It produces zero greenhouse gas emissions
  • It has no radioactive waste disposal problems,
  • It emits only helium as exhaust; and has a zero possibility of a meltdown scenario.
  • Requires less land than other renewable energy sources
  • According to General Fusion, there is enough fusion fuel to power the planet for hundreds of millions of years.


3) Organizational Stakeholders

  • Industries/Businesses
  • Local government agencies
  • Energy Companies
  • Non Profit Organizations

4) Three steps in Deploying this technology

  • Invite General Fusion to assess power needs of city/ community
  • Draw a plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels as power for buildings
  • Draw up a distribution plan ahead of installation of plant and training of personnel


Comment on ““Turning Climate Pollution Into Fish Feed” by MAH S. ()

Novonutrients is also developing new microbes, using synthetic biology, that can produce vitamins and probiotics, which can also be used as ingredients in feed.

Tailend device to capture particulate matter and turn it into ink – Kaalink

1) Sustainability problem: Air pollution from particulate matter emissions of automobiles  Area: Safety and Health, Waste

  • Particulate matter emissions from automobiles can cause adverse health and environmental effects
  • Fine particles (PM2.5) are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in many parts of the world. They can also cause acidification of lakes, depleting nutrients in soil, damaging sensitive forests and farm crops, affecting the diversity of ecosystems and contributing to acid rain effects.
  • Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

2)  Technology

  •  A tail end attachment device developed by Graviky Labs, named Kaalink, which captures the soot being emitted from automobiles.
  • The proprietary electrostatic filter captures pollutants from vehicles, reportedly without impacting engine performance.
  • The captured soot is then processed to remove dangerous metals and carcinogens, leaving behind carbon pigment used to manufacture what they call Air-Ink.




3) Stakeholders

  • Local Governments
  • Automobile owners
  • Health and safety officials
  • Environmental policymakers

4) Deployment 

  • Launch a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the product
  • Partnerships with cities and other large organizations to equip fleets with the tail-end device
  • Pricing the product at a low price point to make sure its use is ubiquitous.


UNI- jv2610

Breath Brick (2015 R&D Award Innovative Architecture)

Break Brick

  • Sustainability Problem:

Effects of air pollution cause 3.3 million premature deaths each year[1] and majority of household pollutants are due to domestic fire for cooking and/or heating homes. The aforementioned are acquit in developing densely populated cities – Beijing, Manila, Nairobi, Cairo, etc.  Access to air filtration systems are limited to a variety of  issues, but the most common are socio-economic and infrastcture.

Category: Clean Air, Energy Efficiency, Energy Savings, Infrastructure, Innovative, Sustainability


  • Breathe brick is a porous concrete module that forms an air-filtration façade. Pulls in air and separates heavy particles and drops them to collection bin at bottom of the façade. Filter can separate 30% of fine particles and 100% of coarse particles.
  • Simple inexpensive framework, brick and coupler. Coupler are manufactured from recycled materials and can take on most structural forms.  
  • Breathe brick system can operate as active (integrated into existing HVAC system) or passive as independent system.
  • Breath brick is electric free.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.17.04 PM Breathebrick03


Organizational Stakeholder:

  • California Polytechnic State University – School of Architecture
  • Homeowner (especially no access to electricity, densely populated cities developing countries, and governments interest in reducing air population)


Next steps for deployment:

  • Waiting for patent approval
  • Refining design to expand to alternative modular forms
  • Regulatory approval in several development nations as sustainable and clean technology product
  • Funding for production




Using New Technology on Diesel Burn to Improve Air Quality


Area of sustainability category: Air Pollution

The air pollution is a severe problem for many countries including both developing and developed ones. It is worth noting that diesel emission is one of the main causes of air pollution in urban areas. Typically, in London, people have started taking actions and citizens want to change the current situation so bad that over 29 million people have signed for an action on diesel emissions in urban centers where have the highest car concentration.



“New Technologies Which Could Improve Urban Air Quality”, website: Policy Exchange,

  • The ezero1 technology can improve the fuel combustion cycle by adding additives
  • Small amounts of hydrogen added into the vehicle air intake can provide a more efficient burn of fuel
  • This technology can be applied on existing cars and vans
  • This technology is produced by UK developer CGON and is available commercially



  • Private car driver who wants to reduce carbon footprint and enhance fuel efficiency
  • Tourism companies such as car rental company, bus companies etc. which want to save fuel bills to lower the operation costs
  • Car manufacturers who want to enhance engine performance and provide a more sustainable car model
  • Municipalities which want to change current sever air pollution problems



  1. The company may conduct an analysis to find where car owners are huge and people’s awareness of air pollution is high. Thus, CGON may find the best target for launching this product in the early stage.
  2. To further attract potential clients, CGON should proactively seek opportunities of attending Auto show, air pollution or energy-related conference to increase people’s awareness of this technology
  3. CGON may also seek for partnership with city governments and tourism companies. For example, CGON can take part in government’s environmental enhancement projects. CGON can offer discount and free installation if large volume orders are placed.



CO2NCRETE – Researchers turn carbon dioxide into sustainable concrete

Sustainability Problem:

Over 30 billions tons of concrete are produced every year. Cement, main component of concrete, emits 0.8 tons of CO2 per ton of cement produced. This is about 7% of total global CO2 emissions. First source comes from CO2 released from limestone to produce lime. The second source is from lime and clay being heated to 1450 degrees celsius to make cement. UCLA research is trying to create a close loop process.


  • CO2 released from limestone to produce lime gets captured
  • CO2 is then separated from gas stream by membrane
  • CO2 is integrated into building material


  • Citizens
  • Government
  • Construction Companies

Steps to Deploy Technology:

  1. Develop scalable technique for 3D-printing
  2. Integrate all processes into a pilot facility
  3. Optimize process parameters





New technology removes air pollutants, may reduce energy use in animal agricultural facilities

Sustainability Problem:

The increase in pollution has increased the need to produce food to sustain this growth. Growing livestock produces high levels of ammonia concentration in the barns. This has a negative impact on the quality of the air in the vicinity of the farm.


  1. Ammonia polluted air enters the biofilter.
  2. There is also a heat exchanger that captures some of the heat and transfers it back into the barn along with fresh air.
  3. The prototype has been proven successful in a farm with 5,000 chickens.


  • Farmers
  • People living around farm land

Steps for deployment:

  • Start by deploying technology is farms with more than 5,000 chickens
  • Approach national brands, because they have resources to implement technology


Hand Tree: Personal air purifier

The problem

Global greenhouse gas emissions are leading the world to a temperature increase between 2ºC and 4ºC, which could cause an environmental collapse in our planet. Moreover, the air is being polluted by toxic emissions from cities and industries.

The technology

The Hand Tree is a wristband that offsets your carbon footprint. It purifies the air around you, turning CO2 equivalents, other pollutants and even dust into oxygen. In other words, this bracelet works like a plant in your arm.


The stakeholders

  • User
  • Environmentalists
  • Investors
  • Retailers


The Hand Tree was designed by Alexandr Kostin for the Electrolux Design Lab competition, were students were challenged to create a technology to address the issue of global pollution.


A Greener Cremation

Sustainability Problem

  • The environmental impact of a “full service” burial is significant; including the resources for the concrete vaults, steel and timber for caskets, and the annual use of over 800,000 gallons of carcinogenic formaldehyde in the US alone.
  • Cemeteries have very little space for native plant or animal life.
  • Cremation causes less environmental impact than burial, however the process releases an average of 532 pounds of CO2 per body and other toxic gases into the atmosphere.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 56 Million people die worldwide (2012).

Summary of the technology

  • The process of Alkaline Hydrolysis was patented by Amos Hebert Hobson in 1888, however it has only recently been used by the funeral industry.
  • The body is introduced into a pressurized steel chamber, where a solution of water, salt and potash creates an alkali solution to decompose the body organically. The solution is heated to 350 degrees and dissolves soft tissues in 2-3 hours.
  • Once the body has been decomposed, the sterile waste is safely disposed into the sewer system. The remaining skeleton is crushed into ash.
  • The process takes longer than flame-based cremation, however it uses less energy and emits no CO2.


  • Funeral home operators
  • Cemeteries
  • Producers of caskets, formaldehyde, and other funeral-related products
  • The environment
  • The bereaved


  • The cost of an alkaline hydrolysis unit is approximately $150,000, which is almost double the cost of an energy efficient flame-based cremation unit; costs are anticipated to come down with wider-scale implementation.
  • Depending on the funeral home the cost of the green alternative can run as high as 3 times a flame-based cremation, but it can be less expensive than full service burials.
  • This process is only legal in 13 US states and 3 Canadian provinces, however due to the environmental benefits other states, including New York and California, are considering legalizing it.