In late 2015, Chinese artist Wang Renzheng, AKA Nut Brother, walked with a vacuum cleaner in the streets of Beijing for 100 days to collect the smog from the air. Using the collected smog, the artist created a solid brick, emphasizing the pollution problem in the country. During the same time, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and his team at Studio Roosegaarde were delivering the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner. And the Smog Free Tower doesn’t just simply clean the polluted air around us but turns pollutants into diamonds, using patented ion technology.

In a trip to Beijing, Roosegaarde looked from his hotel window to find smog covering what he could clearly see, just a day earlier. Inspired by this problem, he decided to develop a 7-meter high, 3.5 meters wide smog-sucking tower that can clean up to 30,000 cubic meters per hour from the air. The machine relies on green electricity and operates on no more than 1,400 watts.

“I wanted to create a place where citizens, makers, NGOs and governments can experience clean air. A bubble of clean air,” Roosegaarde explains in an official statement released by Studio Roosegarde

“We humans have created machines to enhance ourselves,” the designer adds.  “We invented the wheel and cars to liberate ourselves and to travel. But now these machines are striking back, making air extremely polluted in high-density cities such as Beijing. I believe we should do more, not less, and make modern cities livable again.”

The tower was placed in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in September 2015 after a successful campaign on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, collecting EUR €113,153 (USD $125,000) from 1,577 backers. The campaign promised its VIP backers diamond jewelry created from the collected smog.

“In the new world, waste should not exist. Waste for the one should be food for the other,” Roosegaarde said at the Seoul Digital Forum. “By putting the captured smog particles under high pressure, we create smog free [diamond] rings. By sharing a smog free ring you donate a 1000 cubic meters of clean air to the city.”

Diamond rings created from smog - Roosegaarde studio

Diamond rings created from smog – Roosegaarde Studio.

Diamond and smog have carbon in common and putting the carbon smog under pressure for 30 minutes can transform it to diamonds, Studio Roosegaarde explains. “Between 42% and 48% of smog is made out of carbon,” Roosegaarde said during his speech. “The waste is not a waste but an enabler.”

By November 2015, the tower had gathered smog from 1,112,000 m3 of polluted air from which they made 1112 diamond cubes.

The pollution problem is well-known in China and more and more technology innovations are being introduced in an attempt to deal with it, so it was only fitting for the tower’s next stop to be there.

Supported by China’s Ministry of Environment Protection, a Smog Free Park, anchored by the awe-inspiring tower, was announced in June 2016. The project will make its premier this fall and will travel to five cities, debuting in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

“Smog Free Park is not intended as a final solution but as a sensory experience of a clean future. In collaboration with the government, NGOs and clean–tech industry, you can become part of the solution instead of the problem,” Studio Roosegaarde says.

Other cities the tower might visit include Mexico City, Paris and Los Angeles.

*Never miss a story like this - subscribe to our weekly highlights and stay up-to-date