/ episode 9

The future of air (pollution)

The future of air has no comparison to what we are encountered with today. That doesn’t mean that it is going to turn translucent and send us all into a dizzying fog. What I mean is that the way we ‘use’ air will change. That’s why, in this episode, I want to focus on the pioneers who are driving the research and technologies surrounding air. From Bill Gate’s apocalyptic theories to Harvard Professors harvesting pollution for energy. Like the air itself, how the world thinks about air will change dramatically.

Amazon Prime Air

Perhaps one of the most well known innovation in air, comes from industry megatron; Amazon. Amazon is taking to the skies and rolling out their new Prime delivery service. In the not too distant future, you will be able to place your order on Amazon and have a drone deliver it in less than 30 minutes. This may sound like the beginning of the apocalypse, but by incorporating drones into the delivery process, Amazon Air will reduce the need for cars on the road, whilst simultaneously providing a low cost and low pollution alternative.

And Amazon isn’t the only industry looking up at the possibilities of air. From farming, to conservation, to policing, the possibilities of the sky are only now becoming a reality. Next step, flying cars…

Bill Gates’ Apocalypse

It seems that Bill Gates is becoming even more cynical in his old age. Where there is an apocalypse, there is Bill Gates. Whether it is A.I., global warming, or another film directed by James Cameron, Bill Gates seems to be there, letting the world know that billions of people are about to die.

All kidding aside, Gates’ favourite apocalypse starts with an airborne virus. Due to cause lack of infrastructure, education and training, Gate claims that a highly contagious airborne virus would spread like wildfire in our ever shrinking world. When modelling the impacts that the 1918 Spanish Flu would have today, he predicted over 30 million people would die as a result of this airborne virus. So where does that leave us? As nations, we can prepare. As individuals, we can protect and hopefully the Amazon drones will help us all out if such an epidemic hits us again.

Air pollution into Energy

One of the most promising mitigators to the air pollution problem comes from Harvard scientist David Keith, who is partially funded by the aforementioned Apocalypse Gates. David’s company; Carbon Engineering, has created a carbon capturing system which essentially sucks CO2 out of the air, like a giant vacuum cleaner. That CO2 can then be converted to hydrocarbon fuel on a commercial scale.

Because of the dimensions of these giant vacuum cleaners, Carbon Engineering plans to install them in areas which are unusable to man, for instance, the desert. Although Carbon Engineering's products might not be perfect, they pave the way for new innovators to drive efficiency and effectiveness to dizzying new heights.

Take architect Chang-Yeob Lee’s project, Syth(e)tech(e)cology. Chang envisions a world where disuses structures, like the BT Tower in London, become giant vertical oil fields, harvesting pollution and converting it to sustainable biofuel. The outside of a structure would act as a giant catalytic converter, capturing carbon emissions from mobile sources of pollution. The carbon, once captured, could then be transformed into biofuel, which could be redistributed, or resold.

Air pollution as a resource

Other companies are looking beyond energy, bringing that air pollution right into your own home. MIT graduate, Anirudh Sharma, has created a solution for turning pollution into printer ink. Sharma’s concept collects particulate matter, turning it into a fine dust which can then be used to print on paper or fabrics. With Sharma’s technology, a device would be attached to the exhaust of a car and for every six miles travelled, two cartridges of ink would be produced. A staggering statistic.

The list of companies turning pollution into useful products, is endless, whether it be Methane into fish food, carbon into building materials, or simply reducing particulate matter into dust. We live in an ever changing world where visionaries become apocalyptics, problems become products, and companies use air in ways we never could have dreamed of.