China Shenyang smog May 2013
Smog chokes China's skies. Reuters

The blanket of smog over China’s northeastern city of Harbin last week was just one very visible example of the worsening pollution across the increasingly industrialized country. As China’s pollution reaches hazardous levels, a solution to the crisis has never been more urgent, and Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde thinks he may have the solution.

While policymakers in China are resorting to car bans, temporarily shutting down factories and increasing emissions standards, Roosegaarde thinks a high-tech version of a vacuum cleaner could help reduce pollution. According to a report by the Guardian, Roosegaarde designed an electromagnetic vacuum cleaner called Smog that can pull pollutants out of the sky -- and he had China in mind for his invention.

Underground copper coils would create an electromagnetic field and attract airborne pollutants “like a balloon that attracts your hair,” he explains, adding that the particles could then be collected and repurposed. A digital animation (below) of the technology depicts the simple yet scientific way pollutants would be drawn out of the air, clearing the smog-choked skies.

Smog by Studio Roosgaarde from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Roosegaarde, a professional interactive artist with installments all over the world, seems an unlikely candidate to tackle arguably one of China’s biggest issues. But his background and interest in exploring the “dynamic relation between space, people and technology” account for his innovative look at China’s pollution woes. “We always had this notion of merging nature with technology," said Roosegaarde, who owns a studio in his home country in the Netherlands in addition to one in Shanghai. “It’s hacking the landscape, in a poetic way.”

Roosegaarde said his idea for the Smog project came to him while on a business trip to Beijing. Peering out of his hotel window, he saw the city’s iconic CCTV building disappear in a shroud of pollution. Now, what was once only an idea is becoming a reality.

Roosegaarde has received approval from Beijing’s mayor to test out his project in one of the city’s public parks. Tests on a smaller space, a 25-square-meter room, have been successful and plans for expansion are already in the works, with Roosegaarde saying the project could be launched within about nine months.

With local government on board, and the technology tested, one more obstacle remains: “Right now it’s just a question of getting funding for the pilot,” he said.

Separately, Beijing officials plan to spend some $165 billion over five years to reduce air pollution levels by the year 2017.

Earlier this week, the city introduced a number of “emergency” plans, including the closure of some factories and the prohibition of private cars in the center of the metropolis.