A new initiative in Beijing will seek to suck smog out of the air and transform it into diamonds.
Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has devised a solution to air pollution in one of the world's most populous cities - a solution that sounds like it's drawn straight from Hollywood. Roosegaarde says he has an agreement with Beijing's leaders to test a prototype in a city park next year: a vacuum tower that will suck in smog, cleaning the air. The idea doesn't end there - the designer intends to then transform that smog into diamonds.
The vacuum tower would work by attracting smog particles with an electromagnetic field. "By creating a field of ions, all the particles on the nano scale get positively charged," said Roosegaarde, "therefore when the ground is negatively charged, you can drag them to the ground, and purify the air - 75 percent, 80 percent more clean. The great thing about the technology is that is safe. It's already being used in hospitals and it's very energy-friendly, so to have 30,000 cubic meters of clean air purified, it only uses like 30 Watts, which is like a light bulb."
Roosegaarde explained that this technology would create "corridors" of clean air that would allow sunlight to shrine through. His Beijing prototype will produce immediate results.
"We started to look at the smog particles and realized that most of it exists out of carbon," Roosegaarde said. "And what happens when you put carbon under a lot of pressure for two or three weeks, you get... diamonds. We are taking a thousand cubic meters of smog air and compressing this in a sort of smog ring, and there will be different versions, so if we compress it really, really a lot, you get like a real diamond-diamond. The largest series will be that we compress it a little bit less so it gets crystallized, so you still see it's smog, but it's beautiful and by sharing or selling a diamond ring like that, a smog ring, you donate a thousand cubic meters of clean air to the city of Beijing."
While Roosegaarde didn't delve further into the details, it is reasonable to assume that this won't be some magic way to create "free" diamonds. There exist energy and equipment requirements for producing synthetic diamonds, which currently represent approximately 2% of the gem-quality diamond market.