BioUrban, the Mexican invention to combat air pollution

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If Mexico knows anything about air pollution: from time to time, the capital is paralyzed by the smoke from cars, industries and even the Popocatepetl volcano, but now a group of engineers has a proposal to reduce the problem.

This is BioUrban, a kind of artificial tree that, like its natural peers, absorbs pollution and returns clean air. The Mexican invention seems promising especially for those who suffer most from pollution: pedestrians, older adults and cyclists.

“What this system does, through technology, is to be able to inhale that contamination and then we use biology to perform the natural process as a tree does,” Jaime Ferrer, co-founder partner of BiomiTech, tells AFP. Young company behind BioUrban.

The metal structure – a mixture between a tree and a postmodernist tower – captures the contamination and through microalgae inside it performs a process of photosynthesis 365 days a year to return clean air.

Only one of the devices performs the work of some 368 real trees, according to their creators.

Despite this figure, Ferrer points out that the invention – which has an approximate height of four meters and almost three meters in diameter – does not seek to replace real trees but to complement them, since by its characteristics the system can be located in areas where it is difficult to reforest.

It can be installed “in places of high pedestrian, vehicular, cyclist, transport terminals, where one hectare of trees cannot be planted,” he says.

The first of these artifacts was installed in the capital of the central state of Puebla, near a university.

“It is interesting that it uses technology to help the environment because right now we do need it,” says María José Negrete, a 21-year-old student.

Environmental contingency

“BioUrban” is just one way to alleviate a major problem. About seven million people die in the world every year due to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.

In Mexico City, one of the most polluted capitals in the region, the problem affects the quality of life of its nearly 20 million inhabitants.

In May, the megalopolis lived several days of environmental alert that forced the authorities to suspend classes in schools and restrict outdoor activities.

Behind the dense cloud of pollutants were the little more than five million cars that circulate daily, the industries and the continuous forest fires that were registered in nearby towns, in addition to the heat and activity that the neighboring Popocatépetl volcano registered.

For its inhabitants it is a common situation that requires more attention from the authorities.

Ferrer believes that to significantly reduce the problem in a city like this – where the points where purifying devices can be located are already being studied -, sources of pollution must be attacked and environmental standards tightened.

The system designed by BiomiTech “does not end with the contamination of Mexico City, it comes to relieve, it comes to remedy the problem of contamination at each intersection or place of high influx,” he adds.

The price of each BioUrban varies according to the projects, but is around $ 50,000.

The company plans to install the “trees” in the northern city of Monterrey – financed by civil society – and in the capital, where, as in Puebla, the municipalities have paid for the projects.

In addition, it installed devices in Turkey, in Colombia and in Panama.

A technology similar to that of BioUrban was used by the so-called City Tree, a square structure of German engineering launched in 2015 that uses moss to clean the air.

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10 thoughts on “BioUrban, the Mexican invention to combat air pollution”

  1. So why in 10 years, has this technology been put on roadsides everywhere?
    Why Agenda 21?
    Why not install everywhere?
    Surely somebody has shelved this for political reasons!
    Where is this used?

  2. Nearly 9 years later, what is the result? Or BBC did a hoax video too?
    May be BBC just did a hoax video. I’m a Biochemist and this is closest to “perpetual motion machine” of Chemistry. Nothing that can reverse its affinity for another compound with just that li’l bit of moistening. Like perpetual motion machines, that violates 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

  3. Plant more real trees ?? Are you people nuts ? There are not enough space and trees are not really good for capturing and storing carbon. They are not evolved to store more carbon. They will release all of it within a century !

  4. Or we could just plant real trees and preserve more of them to get all the other benefits aside from C02 capture such as water filtration, drought prevention (trees make rain), erosion control and soil production (more carbon), wildlife habitat, beauty, shade, windbreak, to name but a few.

  5. Why is this not being used now , when we are actually having problem with Co2 increase in our current time

  6. Michael Harman

    It is true that plants release co2 at night, but they also absorb more co2 during the day. Oxygen is released which is a cooling gas. Indeed, it caused a snowball Earth a couple of times. Ancient fern trees sequestered co2 and did not rot which is how we got coal. If you want to sequester co2, store the plants where they don’t rot whether in bogs or buildings (caves, anywhere). Use wood containers instead of plastic. Bamboo and algae are good options too. Both grow quickly.
    Whenever something is manufactured it uses energy, creates co2, extensive labor, and needs repair. Materials are the same. Neither are usually green. Seeds and algae cost nothing, and are very green.
    Warmer A.C. & cooler heating settings, slower driving, and LED lighting won’t hurt.

  7. A scientist I once worked with about 25 years ago also had a grant from a large and well-known University in Chicago for the purpose of developing anti-pollution inventions. He had ideas of fish scales and human hair for water filters he was working on getting patented, and he was originally from Mexico…so much pollution, so little time to stop it.

  8. Literally no one is saying we should absorb all of the co2 in the atmosphere, no one is saying co2 is pollution. The goal is to absorb the unnatural EXCESS of co2 in the atmosphere that exists as a BYPRODUCT of pollution from fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Co2 is most definitely a natural thing, but the amounts we see in our current atmosphere are abnormal. If we get back to the levels of co2, worldwide, that existed before say the industrial revolution, then life would be much better for..everything living. Co2 is good for plants, too much co2 will kill off everything due to global warming. We’ve already seen what co2 and global warming gone wild can do, just look at Venus. Life will actually thrive better, if we reduce the amount of co2 in our atmosphere, places that have been suffering droughts and catastrophes due to global warming will flourish again. The way to make the green parts of our planet greener than what we’ve seen in 100 years lies in many paths and technologies, and types of co2 sequestration will likely be a big part of it.

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