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Back to the Future
Jul 25th, 2018
Back to the Future
The future of air
Breathe in. Breathe out. You do this countless times a day with no thought. But, rest assured, there are scientists all over the world who have thought of little else for centuries except for the quality of the air going into your lungs.
It’s true, pollution is considered a modern day issue. But, did you know that it was actually the Industrial Revolution - and the ensuing air pollution that it brought with it - that birthed the concept of filtering air?
Inventors used the ugly, black smog and smell that blanketed the era as inspiration. Specifically, in 1823 John and Charles Dean created primitive air purification systems which helped firefighters to breathe cleaner air while they were working inside of burning, smoky structures. Not long after, in 1854, John Stenhouse improved upon this technology by incorporating a charcoal-based filter design that worked even better. And, air filtration was off to the races!
The 20th century saw air filtration make huge progress, as a result of a combination of events and societal changes, such as the EPA instituting the Clean Air Act. But, perhaps the biggest push for the budding industry was the falling prices of implementing the technology in homes.
“The belief used to be that outdoor air pollution was the main cause of indoor low air quality,” explains our own Ryan Tury, Certified Air Filter Specialist (CAFS). “But, energy efficiency efforts from the 1970s oil crisis resulted in less outdoor air being used by air conditioning systems.” That left indoor spaces dealing with trapped contaminants from building materials, people, cooking, etc. Even things like perfume or scented candles add to the long list of ingredients in indoor air that need to be filtered.
We challenge you to find someone who would say that polluted air is not still a real issue for all living things. Perhaps here in the U.S. we are not breathing in toxins to the level folks were in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, but inventors are still being inspired by the challenge of cleaning our air.
In fact, there are parts of the globe that reached their own industrial revolutions in recent decades, and their inventors are coming up with some interesting ways to address the worsening air quality. And, some of these folks got really creative! Here is just a taste of how some of their ideas are bringing clean air into all of our future’s:
- China is taking a novel approach with its experimental 328 foot high air purifier.
- Then there is a Georgia Tech PhD student who thinks she’s found an air filtration use for ear wax!
- Or maybe the scientists will saddle sheep with fixing the problem. Some wool growers in New Zealand think they’ve got the solution to pollution.
- Of course, going small in science is always fun! These inventors went to the nano level when inventing new filter technology.
So, while the air you are breathing is more filtered than the air your great grandmother breathed, rest assured your children’s children’s lungs will enjoy some uniquely filtered air.