A group of designers aim to develop ‘parasitic’ drones that perch on neon billboards in Hong Kong and suck up pollution to produce fuel and grow plants.
During the day, the drones, which the designers call “parasitic robots” would perch on neon billboards that line Hong Kong streets with their wings spread. They would collect pollution through a carbon-absorbant polymer paint, currently undergoing lab tests at the University of California, Los Angeles.
At night, when the billboards light up, the robots would attach to them, using the heat from the neon in the next step of the process, ‘fastcoexist.com’ reported. Heating up the polymer to a certain temperature would release the CO2, which could be collected and used in energy production.
The CO2 would also help boost the growth of plants on the robots’ wings, so the robots can double as miniature farms. “The plants and robot work as a hybrid, because the main goal is to reduce CO2,” said Michal Jurgielewicz, a Beijing-based architect who is part of the design collective NAS-DRA.
The system would collect organic waste from the plants to create biogas, while the extra CO2 would be used to create methane. Some of the power from these fuels can run the robots themselves, making the system self-sufficient.
A local inventor has similar plans for Peru’s notoriously polluted capital, Lima, where he is deploying giant air purifiers that double as billboards to suck up carbon dioxide and freshen the city’s sometimes choking air.
Jorge Gutierrez, a retired naval engineer, calls the 5 metres box-like steel contraptions he helped design a “super tree” and says each one can convert as much carbon dioxide into oxygen as 1,200 trees. The machines each cost $100,000 to build and $6 a day to run.
“The secret is to reproduce what nature does for free to clean the air,” Gutierrez said.