An artificial tree sucks up as much air pollution as 368 real trees

Trees play an important role in reducing emissions and smog in big cities. They have excellent capacity of cleaning the air and absorbing CO2. But they, unfortunately, have certain drawbacks like they need time and space to grow.

In this regard, a Mexico-based startup has come up with a solution to fight urban pollution. It has developed an artificial tree called “BioUrban” that it claims, is capable of absorbing as much air pollution as 368 real trees. That means it will save not only the growing time but also the space needed to accommodate them. The start-up has installed the robotic tree in the central-southern Mexican city of Puebla.

Measuring 4.2 meters tall and nearly three meters wide, the metal tree employs microalgae that pull carbon dioxide and other contaminants from the air and returns pure oxygen to the environment in exchange.

It uses microalgae to clean carbon dioxide and other contaminants from the air.
It uses microalgae to clean carbon dioxide and other contaminants from the air.

What this system does, through technology, is inhale air pollution and use biology to carry out the natural process (of photosynthesis), just like a tree,” says Jaime Ferrer, a founding partner in BiomiTech.

Each artificial tree weighs about a tonne, and cleans as much air as a hectare of the forest – that is equivalent to what 2,890 people breathe in a day.

A BioUrban typically costs around $50,000, but if it saves even one life per year that is worth it, though the final cost varies depending on the site. According to the World Health Organization, approximately seven million people worldwide die each year from exposure to air pollution.

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Ferrer also explains that their idea of the BioUrban is not to replace real trees, but complement them in areas – like high-traffic areas, transportation terminals – where planting a forest would not be viable.

The project was launched in 2016, and the company has so far installed three trees – one tree in its home city of Puebla, Mexico, another in Columbia, and a third in Panama. Besides, BiomiTech has a contract for two more in Turkey, and the possibility of “planting” others in Mexico City and Monterrey.

It’s a fascinating idea and definitely great use of technology to help the environment.