This Engineer’s Crazy Plan to Clean Air with Smog-Sucking Bikes


Some days in Beijing are so hazy schools shut
down, which isn’t as fun as a snow day because you can’t go outside and build a smog man. (Do you want to build a smog man?) The main contributor is coal burned in power
plants, but the city’s 5 million cars aren’t helping the problem much either. So a Dutchman named Daan Roosegaarde has a
solution: bicycles. Leave it to the Dutch to suggest bikes. There are more bikes in the Netherlands than
people. If anything, bicycles are now a source of
pollution over there because Amsterdam has to dredge its canals to clean out all the
bicycles, and that is not a joke. But the bicycles Roosegaarde is pitching aren’t
just any bikes; he wants to make bikes that actually clean the air as you ride. Roosegaarde has some experience in this area:
his design firm helped create a tower in a Beijing park that takes in polluted air and
gives the smog particles a positive charge. Once the smog is ionized, it’s attracted
to an electrode with a negative charge. Roosegaarde claims his tower can remove up
to 70% of particles 10 micrometers in diameter, and up to 50% of particles 2.5 micrometers
in diameter. Both of which can damage the heart and lungs. The plan is to scale down the same technology
and fit it on a bicycle. It will be powered by a combination of solar
and pedal power, and the stream of clean air will be directed towards the rider’s face,
so they immediately reap the benefits of their work. Roosegaarde has partnered with Ofo, a large
chinese bike sharing company already with 3 million daily users. But there’s still work to be done, like
actually making the bikes and, perhaps as importantly, figuring out how to make people
give them back every month when the filter needs cleaning. Sort those things out and Beijing will have
bicycles that not only reduce the need for cars, but actually clean up after them too. Speaking of bicycles, how about a segue? This episode was sponsored by FreshBooks,
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slash Seeker, and enter “Seeker” in the “How You’ve Heard About Us” section. Thanks for watching, if you like what you
see Subscribe because there will be more! If you’re surprised pollution can be so
bad you should stay indoors, then Julia can tell you exactly what it does to your body
here. Thoughts on the Air Scrubbing Bikes? Are they ingenious or not enough to make a
difference? Let us know in the comments, and I’ll see
you next time on Seeker!

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