China is spending $275 billion to fight air pollution, but the plan will take time, and for now, it’s still pretty common for local weather reports to say it’s unhealthy to spend time walking down the street. In the meantime, maybe people in Beijing–and places like Delhi, where the smog is even worse–will start wearing more than just masks to protect themselves when they go outside.
The BBsuit 0.2, from a group of Netherlands-based designers, creates a bubble of purified air around the person wearing it, using technology embedded into the threads of the clothing. “Since our clothing is constantly in contact with the air surrounding us, it creates an opportunity to clean the air,” say designers from Studio Eva de Laat, Byborre, the Eindhoven University of Technology, Studiofriso, and WANT.
The spacesuit-like design uses patented “cold plasma” tech that splits oxygen and water molecules to create free radicals that–according to the designers–react with pollutants in the air to harmlessly destroy them. Bacteria, viruses, and dust are also swept away as the suit walks along the street.
The suit also has built-in GPS and Wi-Fi, so it can automatically report current pollution stats, and create a more detailed and accurate picture of pollutants like carbon monoxide or methane crowdsourced from people throughout the city. “Conducting yarns are integrated in the fabric in the production process,” explains Borre Akkersdijk from Byborre, a fabric innovation company. “That means we can place sensors in specific areas when designing the suit.”
Developed as a concept for Beijing Design Week, the designers say the clothing works, but it’s not quite ready for sale. “It’s the next step in our development to a platform on and around the body,” Akkersdijk says. It’s particularly suited for Beijing, he says, since the giant electronics and textile industries are part of the reason that the city is so polluted–but the same technology can also help clean it up.