VALUABLE SMOKE: Artist helps China turn smog into diamonds

Beijing, CHINA
VIJAY SHAH via World Economic Forum

Smog is probably one of the most useless… and dangerous things known to humanity. The thick all-enveloping clouds of chemical particulates, water vapour, smoke and other atmospheric ingredients kills thousands of people globally per year, causes disruption to traffic and the economy and is an inescapable hazard to sufferers of breathing problems such as asthma. But now, in the notoriously polluted cities of China, they are not only fighting back, but are making a tidy profit from it too.

China has some of the most polluted aerial environments on earth. With a 1 billion-plus population and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, as well as a determined quest to become a major world superpower, the country’s citizens pay the price for China’s great march to prosperity, enduring extremely high smog levels owing to the proliferation of factories, industrial units and slash-and-burn farming creating smoke which blows in from the countryside. In some large cities, including the capital Beijing, smog occurs almost on a daily basis, and is particularly evident in the summer months. One nationwide smog incident in late 2015 sparked red alerts and health warnings in ten cities, and the dirty air is thick enough to reach California, thousands of miles away in the Pacific.


However an artist from the Netherlands has proposed a novel solution that could not only rid cities in China, and in other rapidly developing nations, of their peasoupers, but also provide a boost to the diamond industry, turning a killer into a sparkler.

Dutch national Daan Roosegaarde is the in-charge of the Smog Free Project. The premise of the project is simple. First erect a seven metre tall tower which looks like it was made from window blinds and resembles a portly windmill. The tower draws in the polluted air and purifies it. As it does so, the carbon from the smog is extracted and compressed into carbon, the building blocks for organic life and the core ingredient of diamonds. The tower transforms the carbon dust into valuable gems, in a process that takes just thirty minutes. Beijing’s smog alone is 32 per cent carbon particulates, which will mean a lot of gems. The towers are, not surprisingly considering the background of their designer, influenced by Dutch architectural styles, and are intended to not look too obtrusive or space-consuming, a form of functional urban sculpture.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Roosegaarde told the assembled delegates and press: “It started with a dream,”

“The dream of clean air for everyone.”

The idea for the Smog Free Project first formed in Roosegaarde’s imagination when he was observing Beijing’s notorious smog from a hotel window.

“On Saturday, I could see the world around me, the cars, the trees, the people. But on Wednesday it was completely covered in smog, with pollution, and that image made me a little bit sad.”

Determined to free people from being forced to stay inside during smoggy days and to give them freedom to breathe safe air, he began planning the project.

Tests done in Beijing have shown the technology does work. Areas where the towers were tested were found to have air 70 to 75 per cent cleaner than places which did not have them. The success of the tests was picked up on by Beijing’s city government who have decided to endorse the artist’s project. Roosegaarde will now tour other cities in China to display the virtues and benefits of the towers.

The diamonds produced by the Smog Free Project will be used in jewellery making and the profits made ploughed back into the project, particularly in funding the construction of more towers.

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“Why turning China’s smog into diamonds isn’t as crazy as it sounds” – Rachel Hallett, World Economic Forum – Industry Agenda (27 June 2016)
Rosa Ortiz.

ALTON TOWERS ‘AIR’: Eighty people trapped as popular rollercoaster breaks down

More than a month after British theme park Alton Towers became a disaster zone when its Smiler ride malfunctioned, seriously injuring four people, another rollercoaster broke down yesterday, which was the hottest day of the year so far. The broken down car was alleged to have helped trap more than eighty people on and around the ride for two hours, the Metro newspaper reports.

On the same day the United Kingdom experienced the hottest daytime temperatures since 2003, the theme park’s Air rollercoaster seized up, causing dozens of thrillseekers to be suspended upside-down mid-air for twenty minutes. Another eighty visitors hoping to follow them onto Air were stuck in sweltering carriages for more than an hour after two monorail trains stopped.

Air , montagnes russes à Alton Towers
Air , montagnes russes à Alton Towers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the beginning of last month, sixteen people on a rollercoaster car on the recently opened Smiler were injured when it collided with an empty car parked further down the ride after the safety braking mechanisms failed. Two of the injured visitors had legs amputated due to their horrific injuries.

A spokesman said delays were ‘within expected levels’ and the monorail would re-open on Thursday.

It took an hour for Alton Towers staff to remove 80 people off the monorail using the evacuation walkways installed for such emergencies.

A spokesman told the BBC television broadcaster: “The train drivers kept guests informed via the on board PA system and refreshments were provided.”

Guests trapped on the Air ride were rescued “within standard operating procedures”, according to the theme park’s management. Nobody was injured in the rollercoaster malfunction, and there are no reports of damage to the ride. After the Smiler incident, Alton Towers agreed to pay compensation to the affected and also to review their safety and maintenance policies. 

Air is a fast-paced ride that promises visitor they will “experience the feeling of flying” as they sail into the clouds and through the resort’s trees. It is located in the Forbidden Valley section of the park and stands at a height of 20 metres. Its cars can reach speeds of 75 kilometres per hour along the 850 metre long track and was built at a cost of GBP £12 million. Air can accommodate 1,500 riders per hour.

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“Alton Towers’ Air rollercoaster broke down for two hours trapping 80 people upside down” – Carri-Ann Taylor, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (2 July 2015)
“Air” – Alton Towers Resort, Alton Towers Resort Operations Limited/Merlin Entertainment Group
“File:Air (Alton Towers) 01.jpg” – Andyfishburne, Wikimedia Commons (15 October 2007)