Aug 28, 2019
Thanks to dirty fossil fuels, air pollution is all around us, with nearly 2,000 areas of the UK already above air pollution limits deemed safe by the World Health Organisation.
What’s even more alarming is that it’s children who are most at risk from harmful airborne pollutants, both because they breathe more air per minute than adults (relative to their size), and because prams and buggies place infants directly at the level of car exhaust fumes.
At Tonik, we’re doing our bit to switch the nation over to renewable energy and electric vehicles, but inventor Yosi Romano had an idea to tackle the clean air crisis from another perspective; by creating a device that allows parents to clean the air directly around their children.
We spoke to Yosi about Brizi Baby - a smart cushion that can be fitted in any vehicle, and which circulates a continuous flow of clean air around an infant’s head, essentially creating an atmospheric shield from airborne pollution.
What inspired you to create Brizi?
We all know about air pollution, but it wasn’t until my daughter Alma was born that I started to look carefully at how it can affect our children’s health. Scarily, some of the heaviest and most dangerous kinds of pollution stay close to the ground -- exactly where Alma’s baby stroller puts her every day when we go shopping down Finchley Road, take a walk to visit friends or catch a bus to the park. Young children are breathing at exactly the level where the pollution is worst, without the defences they will develop later in life to combat it. I decided that this was a problem that had to be solved.
How does it work?
There are three core components to the design: two filters and a fan. The first is a unique, high-quality filter made from a multi-layered, medical grade nano-metric woven fabric; this layer filters minute particles from the air. The second is a carbon layer that filters harmful gases.
The clean, filtered air is then pumped from Brizi Baby by a fan that delivers 1.5 litres of cleaned air every 10 seconds, ensuring that the child is protected from airborne pollutants in the ambient environment by what is effectively a ‘curtain’ of clean air.
We had some field tests conducted by Professor Prashant Kumar, who is the Professor and Chair in Air Quality and Health at the University of Surrey. He found that our invention cuts the concentration of fine-sized particles within the pram he used by at least 50% - and that’s without a rain cover or canopy. The concentration of particles in the pram was cut by up to 80% when pollution in the ambient air spiked due to emissions from traffic or nearby idling vehicles.
How does Brizi Baby monitor clean air routes?
The Brizi Baby’s sensors pair with an app that plot air pollution data against GPS data provided by the phone, providing personalised air quality data comparisons for parents - showing their least and most polluted areas of travel. Data from the Brizi Community will ultimately be aggregated and combined with publicly available air quality information to be visualised on the Brizi app and website as a real-time air pollution ‘heat map’ - helping users to optimise their daily routes and avoid pollution hotspots.
Brizi also has a sensor-only option for active urban dwellers to track air quality while running, cycling or going about their daily activities.
Could this technology have wider applications?
Brizi with the sensor and the app is an ecosystem, and we have a few other products in the pipeline that would work under the same ecosystem to protect users while collecting and sharing data on air quality. The more users we have, the more precise the data.
What role do you think renewable energy will play in a clean-air future?
Our product tackles air pollution on a micro scale, protecting one individual at a time - but renewable energy is going to play a very important role in reducing pollution at source. It’s burning less carbon and less dirty fuel that actually has the power to shift the balance on a macro scale.
What do you think is the number one thing people - or the world - can do to help fight air pollution?
Combustion engines that burn diesel and carbon-burning heaters are the number one problem when we talk about pollution in cities; they have to be taken out of circulation. On a more general note, however, everyone could work to reduce their consumption - we all need to consume less.
What recent or upcoming developments in sustainable technology are you personally excited about?
I am excited about solar energy, and I am sure that if not for geopolitical reasons the Sahara desert could have provided energy for half of Europe by now.
Any renewable energy is blessed, but we must look at the full cycle of recycling the used electric car batteries and the mining of minerals that are needed in order to produce it in the first place. We need to take a holistic approach to energy in the future.
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