World's First Wearable Air Purifier Takes Smog Masks To The Next Level

Who says environmental degradation can't drive technological innovation? A research team from Chongqing, China has introduced a battery-powered wearable air purifier that can filter up to 99.9 percent of dangerous PM 2.5 fine particulates from the surrounding air.

The conceptual leap from passive cloth smog mask to this smart-looking headset is much more than just cosmetic. Featuring an air outlet positioned just beneath the wearer's nose, the device is both unobtrusive and non-invasive. Traditional smog masks fore wearers to breathe harder than they normally would, for example, “thus we reduce face coverage to the absolute minimum” according to team leader Xu Zongyan.

Less facial coverage is fine; better blockage of airborne pollutants is, well, even better! The real culprits affecting those forced to live, work and play in smoggy regions are fine particles with diameters of 2.5 micrometers or less. When inhaled, these “PM 2.5” particulates penetrate deep into the lungs and are small enough to enter the blood stream unfiltered. The results include permanent DNA mutations, heart attacks, and cancer.

Gaseous pollutants are just as insidious and standard cloth smog masks don't block them at all, while (according to the team) the new wearable air purifier removes up to 90 percent of formaldehyde from the air before releasing it to be breathed in by the user.

The device pumps three cubic meters of filtered per hour, a rate approximately twice as much as the volume of air inhaled under normal conditions. An integrated high-precision sensor tests the ambient air quality and once users install a dedicated app they can monitor real-time air pollution data via their smartphones. All this pumping and testing takes power, mind you, and the device's battery currently allows full functionality for up to six hours. While the average city commuter won't reach that limit, plans for the production version foresee up to ten hours of use possible before recharging is necessary.

When will we see the wearable air purifier on sale in stores and online? That depends on the efforts of the Chongqing development team to line up enough deep-pocketed investors to enable mass production. Wish them success – having come so far it would be a shame to see them choke. (via ECNS and Leiphone)