“Smog Free Tower” Renamed After Failing to be Smog Free

Will improve awareness, but not the air

After a cold reception by Beijingers, a device once called “the world’s largest outdoor air purifier” will have its name changed from the “Smog Free Tower” to “Smog Warning Tower” after it failed to live up to expectations.

The change of name comes after the China Forum of Environmental Journalists released lackluster performance tests of the tower on Sunday. The group determined that the tower has a filtering effect, but that it is unstable and limited in scope. The tower was even incapable of attaining World Health Organization air standards for PM 2.5 set at 75 micrograms per cubic meter.

The seven-meter tall device designed by Dutch engineer Daan Roosegaarde was hyped for years before being built in Beijing’s 798 art district this fall. It was supposed to create a “bubble” of fresh air around it by capturing 75 percent of all Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) and Particulate Matter 10 (PM 10) in its vicinity. It was touted as able to clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour through its patented ozone-free ion technology.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Feng Jia, a member of the Chinese Society For Environmental Sciences, compared the effectiveness of the tower to turning on an air conditioner outside a house. Feng called the installation “just a kind of performance art” seeing as the device requires energy to run, and so therefore produces pollutants to operate.

Another expert pointed out that the tower will only be able to absorb 4.5 grams of PM 2.5 an hour from a sky with a PM 2.5 concentration of 200 per cubic meter, barely amounting to a spoonful of salt.

Liu Guozheng, the general secretary of the China Forum of Environmental Journalists, said, “To introduce the tower to China is to live in a future without need for it.”

But as it were, the near future is when you can go see the device for yourself.

The newly-christened “Smog Warning Tower” is set to embark on a five city Chinese tour this winter, backed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor