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Pollution control strategies and technologies to fight growing menace of pollution deaths

Atmospheric pollution is a growing problem, particularly in urban areas and in less developed countries.  With half the world has no access to clean fuels or technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted. More than 8 million people around the world die each year as a result of breathing polluted air that contains particles from fossil fuels, a new study has found.

 

Since the industrial revolution, urbanisation and industrialisation, together with economic development, have led to increases in energy consumption and waste production. Exposures to air pollution, toxic chemicals, and pesticides are the main forms of pollution today causing disease in high-income countries. In low-and-middle-income countries, household air pollution and contaminated drinking water are long-established forms of environmental contamination. Hazardous waste sites and contamination of soil and abandoned mines have killed hundreds of thousands people each year.

 

However, during the past decade, with the spread of Western lifestyles, and the increasing globalisation of the chemical manufacturing industry, toxic chemicals, highly hazardous pesticides, and chemical wastes that previously were found only in high-income settings have been rapidly penetrating in low-and-middle-income countries too. Exposure of millions of people to asbestos in China, south and southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, lead intoxication from lead-acid battery recycling, and exposure to mercury from gold extraction are only a few dramatic examples of the growing exposure to toxic chemicals.

 

According to the World Health Organization, one out of every nine deaths can be attributed to diseases caused by air pollution. Organic pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds, are the main cause of this, and they are mostly emitted by vehicle exhausts and industry. In the case of air pollution, the number of deaths in India from ambient air pollution was 1.09 million, while deaths from household air pollution from solid fuels were 0.97 million. In the case of water pollution, 0.5 million deaths were caused by unsafe water source, while unsafe sanitation caused 0.32 million deaths.

 

The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. Microscopic pollutants in the air can slip past our body’s defences, penetrating deep into our respiratory and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart and brain. This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt.

 

Because environmental problems pose risks to the health, safety, and security of troops, they can influence combat operations. In most contingencies over the past two decades, U.S. forces have remained in the theater for much longer than anticipated, getting deeply involved in such non-combat activities as stabilization, reconstruction, and nation-building.

 

The agenda of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 challenge to develop transformative technologies that help to protect, even expand our planet’s habitability. Thus, environmental sustainability is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proclaimed by the United Nations in 2015. One key aspect of this pledge is the need to produce goods and products in a way that is both economically viable and ecologically sustainable. However, reducing and eventually stopping harmful emissions is not sufficient; it will also require large-scale interventions to restore ecological balances and remove pollution by industrial and urban activities.

 

Controlling Sources of Pollution

It is most cost effective to control the pollution at the source rather than than trying to remove it from vast environment.  Successful examples of control strategies in high-income countries have been those that reduce exposure at source, such as removal of lead from gasoline, national bans of asbestos, and policies to reduce water and air pollution. Such strategies have proved to be incredibly cost-effective.

 

Pollution prevention approaches to reduce, eliminate, or prevent pollution at its source, should be considered. Examples are to use less toxic raw materials or fuels, use a less-polluting industrial process, and to improve the efficiency of the process.  Removal of lead from gasoline has returned approximately $200 billion to the US economy each year since 1980. Policies aiming to prevent rather than assess the absolute proof of toxicity of certain types of toxic chemicals should also be implemented if such a holistic approach is to be taken.

 

Air Pollution Control

Air pollutants are many and have differing physical and chemical characteristics, as also a vast number of sources. Common pollutants include dust, soot, ash, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), lead compounds, asbestos & cement dust, pollens, and radioactive rays. Best technologies are trees and plants. Plant them, they are natural, cheap, won’t cause any malfunction, low (if any) maintenance cost, live longer and lot more good effects then artificial technologies.

 

The techniques of air pollution control is used to reduce the gaseous & particulate emissions of harmful substances that can affect not only human health but also the environment. Examples are mechanical collectors, wet scrubbers, fabric filters (baghouses), electrostatic precipitators, combustion systems (thermal oxidizers), condensers, absorbers, adsorbers, and biological degradation.

 

Controlling emissions related to transportation can include emission controls on vehicles as well as use of cleaner fuels. China, has been heavily investing in renewable energy sources and aims to improve emissions standards. Recently in Rhode Island, the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. was installed, shutting down a nearby diesel plant, and countries like Germany, Costa Rica, and Canada are all making huge strides toward the elimination of fossil fuels

 

Economic incentives, such as emissions trading, banking, and emissions caps can be used. These strategies may be combined with the “command-and-control” type regulations which have traditionally been used by air pollution control agencies.

 

Pollution control technologies

A Tiny Device Can Transform Air Pollution into Usable Fuel

Scientists from the University of Antwerp and University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium have  developed a device that filters polluted air and, through that process, produces energy.

The device is a two-roomed photoelectrochemical cell. In one room of the cell, air is filtered in and purified using a photoanode. The process produces hydrogen, which is collected by a cathode behind the membrane that separates the two rooms. This hydrogen can be stored and later used as fuel.

“In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air,” explained Professor Sammy Verbruggen, an author of the study, in a university news release.

 

Studio Roosegaarde’s giant air-purifier leaves Beijing’s air cleaner than it found it

Roosegaarde  and his team have designed, built, and tested (what they claim is) the world’s largest air purifier. Standing at almost 23 feet high, the Smog Free Tower can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour using the same amount of electricity as a home water boiler (about 1,400 watts). According to Roosegaarde, the system can collect, capture, and turn to dust about 75% of dangerous PM2.5 and PM10 airborne smog particulates, creating a bubble of clean air in its midst.

We warmly welcome Smog Free Project to Beijing,” said Liu Guozheng, Secretary-General of The China Forum of Environmental Journalists. “This project is key in our agenda to promote clean air as a ‘green lifestyle’ among Chinese citizens. Our goal is to guide the public to a healthier lifestyle, low carbon development and to raise awareness amongst the public and reduce smog.”

 

Dearman – making clean engines with liquid air

British startup is pioneering a piston engine that is powered by the expansion of liquid air (nitrogen)  to deliver zero-emission power and cooling. The Dearman Engine  could significantly reduce the emissions of refrigerated transport, buses and commercial vehicles, and help companies to make substantial fuel savings.

 

The liquid air in the Dearman Engine expands, powering the engine, which emits clean, cold air. The engine also provides free cooling, and so is particularly useful for cold chain transport and bus air conditioning, which consume 20% of a vehicle’s diesel fuel. Importantly, the engine is economical to build and maintain.

 

Fitting just a third of the UK’s refrigerated trailer fleet with a Dearman engine could remove 180 tonnes of particulate matter from the air annually, the equivalent of taking 367,000 Euro VI diesel lorries off the road. Similarly, the Centre for Low Carbon Futures estimates that by 2025, liquid air vehicles could save a million tonnes of carbon and 1.3bn litres of diesel in the UK alone.

 

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology (synbio) is the construction of biological components, such as enzymes and cells, or functions and organisms that don’t exist in nature, or their redesign to perform new functions. Synthetic biologists identify gene sequences that give organisms certain traits, create them chemically in a lab, then insert them into other microorganisms, like E. coli, so that they produce the desired proteins, characteristics or functions. Synthetic biology is promising not just to limit and, wherever possible revert emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases, but also to replace environmentally costly processes based on fossil fuels with bio-based sustainable alternatives.

 

One line of action is developing bio-based alternatives to chemical processes that adopt biocatalysts developed through metabolic engineering, such as the production of degradable plastics, biofuels and both bulk and fine chemicals. These bio-based alternatives are bound to capture a large portion of the current market as oil becomes more scarce and expensive.

 

A second approach is to reduce and prevent emissions of harmful chemical waste at the point of manufacturing. Microorganisms naturally possess a considerable ability to degrade toxic molecules that has been substantially enhanced through directed evolution, genetic engineering or a combination of both. The resulting biocatalysts can be integrated in zero-pollution industrial pipelines. By the same token, a number of CO2-fixing microorganisms—not just cyanobacteria—and fermenters of highly complex municipal, commercial, sludge or agricultural biowaste can be genetically enhanced (or entirely reinvented) for superior performance to capture carbon in either mineral or organic forms, thereby allowing its conversion in value-added products like sugars and polymers.

 

Synthetic biology has been used to improve enzymes, cells and populations of cells for diverse applications such as sensing, breaking down hydrocarbons and other “forever chemicals” such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in soil and water and sequestering carbon dioxide and methane. Contemporary biotechnology has not only created new methods and processes to produce molecules and materials. It has also generated new approaches for managing, sensing and remediating pollutants, including the transformation of waste into value-added molecules or energy.

 

Microbes have been used to sense, identify and quantify environmental pollutants for decades. Now synthesized microbial biosensors are able to target specific toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nitrogen, ammonium, nitrate, phosphorus and heavy metals, and respond in a variety of ways. They can be engineered to generate an electrochemical, thermal, acoustic or bioluminescent signal when encountering the designated pollutant.

 

Some microbes can decontaminate soil or water naturally. Synthesizing certain proteins and transferring them to these bacteria can improve their ability to bind to or degrade heavy metals or radionuclides. One soil bacterium was given new regulatory circuits that direct it to consume industrial chemicals as food. Researchers in Scotland are engineering bacteria to convert heavy metals to metallic nanoparticles, which are used in medicine, industry and fuels.

 

CustoMem in the UK uses synthetic biology to create a granular material that attracts and sticks to micropollutants such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and certain chemicals in wastewater. And Australian researchers are attempting to create a multicellular structure they call a “synthetic jellyfish” that could be released after a toxic spill to break down the contaminants.

 

 

Air Pollution Control System Market

Global Air Pollution Control Systems Market size is projected to reach USD 115370 million by 2026, from USD 93470 million in 2020 is anticipated to grow with a healthy growth rate of more than 3.6%During 2021-2026. The United States Air Pollution Control System Market is expected to grow from USD 7,919.79 Million in 2020 to USD 11,283.71 Million by the end of 2025.

 

Stringent emission regulations have been instrumental in driving the growth of the market. However, the increasing adoption of renewable energy sources might hamper the market growth.

 

Air Pollution Control Systems vary from industry to industry depending on the type of hazardous emissions that need to be eliminated. Because of the corrosive nature in many of these emissions, corrosion-resistant materials are required. Air Pollution Control Systems are required in many industrial facilities due to health and safety regulations enforced by OSHA, EPA, as well as State Agencies.

 

Air Pollution Control System Market include  CO2 Capture, Electrostatic Precipitator, Mercury Control Technology, Particulate Control Systems, Pulse-Jet Baghouse, Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) System, Spray Dryer, and Wet Flue Gas Desulfurization System. The Particulate Control Systems commanded the largest size in the Air Pollution Control System Market in 2020. On the other hand, the Mercury Control Technology is expected to grow at the fastest CAGR during the forecast period.

 

Airex Industries Inc., Andritz AG, Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc., Camfil AB, Donaldson Co. Inc., General Electric Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., RAFAKO GROUP, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd., and Thermax Ltd. are some of the major market participants.

 

References and resources also include:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542519617301031

https://archpaper.com/2017/02/beijing-smog-free-tower-roosegaarde/#gallery-0-slide-1

https://greenerideal.com/news/pollution-deaths-breakthrough-technology-fight/

https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/08/14/synthetic-biology-help-environment/

About Rajesh Uppal

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