An innocuous metal cylinder in a garden at the foot of the Italian Alps, quietly snacking on air pollution, may be part of the answer to President-elect Donald Trump’s ambition to stimulate coal burning.
Its maker, U-Earth Biotechnologies, is one of a handful of companies worldwide seeking to combat smog by, essentially, digesting it. The 10-foot tall cylinder, part of a demonstration project in Turin, contains a strain of bacteria that can consume car exhaust, sulfur dioxide from coal plants and other airborne nasties. One of the units can create a bubble of clean air about the size of a basketball court, according to co-founder Betta Maggio.
“Rather than destroying the planet by throwing away filters from ventilation machines, we immobilize the pollution and transform it,” Maggio said.
The project is an example of the hundreds of technologies scientists and businesses are experimenting with as a solution to reining in the pollution. None on their own can fix the problem, although each can make a contribution. The pioneers include: a social-design company in Rotterdam, which is running a demonstration project in China, and an environmental-research firm in Berlin that specializes in building facades that chemically neutralize harmful particles in the air.