Monday, March 15, 2010

Bioneered Air Filtration

Many people are bothered by the all the crap in the air. Industrial society throws up a lot of air pollution. There are particulates, soot, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and the list goes on. Unfortunately some people are really sensitive to all this and end up being sick all the time, spending a fortune on air cleaning products, or moving to the middle of nowhere. It is those products I want to focus on. HEPA filters remove particulate matter from the air, down to some seriously tiny stuff. However, it does nothing to remove harmful gasses. Some people use carbon filters, which will remove some of the gasses and especially smells from the air. There are all kinds of ionizing filters out there that use magnetic charges to remove the junk from the air. I have even seen devices that dump ozone into the air to help oxidize the chemicals in the air and change them into something inert. I really have an issue with those. There is a reason the EPA classifies ozone as a pollutant. It is really bad for your lungs. Keep it in the upper atmosphere where it belongs!

So what is a good way to get really clean air without having to buy all that expensive equipment? Well, let’s look at that third option up there: moving to the middle of nowhere. Ever wonder why the air in the middle of nowhere is so fresh and clean? Is it the lack of sources of pollution? Personally, I think that is only half of the issue. I think that the other half is the plants that are scrubbing all the gunk from the air and using it as food. Houseplants have also been shown to do a really good job of cleaning harmful gasses from the air. There are two problems with plants, though. First of all, they work pretty passively, only filtering the air that drifts past them, and secondly, they don’t really do much for particulates. Then I saw this device. I love this thing. According to the technical details, it uses a fan to draw air over the leaves of a living plant, allowing the plant to draw the chemicals out of the air. Then it draws the air down through the soil of the plant and then through the water reservoir in the bottom, thereby reducing the majority of the particulate matter. That is the kind of bioneering I like: including life in the technology to make the whole thing work better. So, how can we take this great product and make it better? Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) Glue a few air plants to the plastic shield. It means you’ll have to open it up and mist it every few days, but it’ll probably add to the efficiency. Air plants do not grow in soil, so they get everything they need from the air. That means that they are really good at filtering the air to get the nutrients they need.

2) Careful plant selection to pick the best plants for the job. The device says that you can use any house plant, but I suspect that certain plants do a better job of filtering the air than others. Anyone out there found any research to this effect?

3) Design the soil. Smaller pore space would help ensure that more particles are captured. Living soil would also introduce microbes to the mix that might help snatch some of the crap out of the air. Also, fungal mycelium forms a network that looks suspiciously like a net and has been used quite successfully to filter water. It is quite possible that it would also filter air. The only problem is that you can’t really get saprophytic mushrooms to live in that pot for long enough to do any real good. It is just too small. But a mycorhyzzal fungus growing with the plant just might do the trick.

Oh, and as a bonus, here is another product that also uses plants to filter the air. However, the article is a bit low on details, so it is sort of hard to get excited about it.

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