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Soumac WOW blog: How polluted air is being purified on London’s underground (and further afield)

Pollution on London’s tube is estimated to be up to 30 times higher than on busy roads during peak periods; however, this figure could be about to drop significantly thanks to Airlabs technology – an air purification system which promises to eradicate more than 95% of Nitrogen Dioxide on London’s tubes together with other pollutants.

The technology has already been installed at several major stations – including Marylebone – as well as bus stops, offices and other popular areas in the City.

In this month’s blog Soumac are taking a further look at the technology and how it could be applied further afield:

How it works

Airlabs technology has been developed through a combination of atmospheric chemistry and airflow engineering, which are implemented alongside a proprietary re-engineered nano carbon filter that effectively removes pollutants from the atmosphere. From the top unit, dirty air is sucked in, which then passes through three large filters to remove particulate matter and nitrogen oxide from the air. The outlets then transport the clean air to surrounding areas.

The technology was independently tested by King’s College London at its air quality monitoring location on Marylebone Road, one of the most polluted roads in London.

Applications further afield

As well as their large vents at stations, Airlabs have also famously created the ‘air bench’; which provides the public with green areas to sit, and London’s first ‘pollution fighting bus shelters’, in partnership with JCDecaux and The Body.

Most recently, Airlabs installed their ‘pollution pods’ at Somerset House to coincide with Earth Day and raise awareness of the air pollution crisis. Inside the pods several of the world’s most polluted environments have been recreated, including London’s high street, New Delhi, Beijing and Sao Paulo. The pods recreate the smells and sights of polluted cities without using toxic chemicals, to bring awareness to the issue.


Airlabs are also placing a large focus on their ‘Airbubbl’ tech – a cylindrical device about 12cm in diameter and just over 30cm long, with electric fans at each end, which removes 95% of exhaust pollutants inside a car within 10 minutes. Compared to standard filtration system fitted in a car, the Airbubbl promises to remove dust, soot, particular matter, nitrogen dioxide and VOCs and claims to be ‘the only type of filter that absorbs harmful gases and keeps them locked away’. This is thanks to their unique HEPA filters, which act as “nano carbon” membranes that react chemically to strip out the nitrogen dioxide in the air.

As well as removing up to 95% of pollution toxins from the surrounding atmosphere, Airlabs tech also promises several other advantages. The technology itself requires little maintenance and energy to be powered. What’s more, the technology has been made from highly flexible materials, meaning it can be built to fit environments on all shapes and sizes.

While the technology is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s by no means a solution to solving the issue of air pollution and this is something the British-Danish start-up are considerate of. Ultimately, better legislation, combined with a greater awareness of the issue is what will be the main driving force for solving the planets ever-growing issue of air pollution.


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