written by:
October 12, 2012

An ingenious filtration system keeps air clean through a set of cell-like modules and a network of tubes that harnesses the organic technology of plants.


Driven by a project at the Responsive Architecture at Daniel research lab at the University of Toronto, graduate Elaine Tong (class of 2011) designed the modular Filtration Block to purify air using house plants.
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Tong's prompt to build a responsive and self-sustaining system yielded this geometrically structured air purifier.
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To help care for the plant, the chemistry model-like system includes a watering mechanism strung throughout the body. Embedded humidity sensors detect the moisture level and dispense water as needed.
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Rather than relying on mechanical filters, like many household air purifiers do, Filtration Block uses miniature greenhouses. At around 12" x 12", the modules are large enough to house a plant that will produce clean air, but small enough to remain portable.
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As this diagram shows, pores help draw polluted air into the cells. A plant will then naturally filter it and convert it into clean air, which fans then distribute back out into the outside environment.
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The Filtration Block is based on the Weaire Phelan structure—a complex polyhedron with a high volume to surface area ratio. You may recognize this shape from the facade of the Beijing Olympics' aquatic center.
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The modules can be arranged vertically or horizontally in myriad ways; the result is a flexible, yet structurally sound arrangement.
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Tong plans to sell the Filtration Block as a kit of parts that can be purchased and assembled as needed. Until then, we'll just have to settle for one of these mechanical ones.
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