Polish Engineers Make Air-Cleaning Device

17 April, 2017

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

From Asia to Europe to North America, poor air quality is making people sick and, in some cases, killing them at an early age.

Air pollution causes six million premature deaths every year worldwide. This number comes from studies done by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thirty-three of Europe's most polluted cities are in Poland. Part of the reason is how Poles heat their homes. In the winter, many people keep warm by burning coal. Northern China has a similar problem.

And it is a big problem.

Coal is transported at a heating plant in Warsaw, Poland, March 2012.
Coal is transported at a heating plant in Warsaw, Poland, March 2012.

Burning coal releases dirty particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Particulate matter, sometimes called PM for short, is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are so large or dark that we can see them with the naked eye. Others are so small that we can only see them using an electron microscope.

Scientists say particulates, in large amounts, are partly responsible for changes in Earth's climate and serious health problems.

The WHO is urging governments to set pollution rules for industries and show people how to cook, heat and travel in ways that aren't so dirty. But in the short-term, we need to create clean technologies and to improve the way we burn fuel.

Polish device cleans air

In Poland, researchers have invented some simple technology that may help to reduce air pollution. The device looks like a normal pipe.

One of the engineers on the project, Robert Kubica, explains how it works. He says the device uses electricity to trap dust in the pipe.

He explains that the electricity turns the ash into "ionized particles," which fall on the inner part of the pipe. There they are gathered by an automatic ash removal system. From there, they go into an ash box. The remaining gases -- without the ash -- go out of a chimney and into the air.

"The ionized particles are deposited on the inner part of the body where they are gathered by an automatic ash removal system. The ashes go into the ash box, while the exhaust goes into the chimney."

The Polish researchers say this simple technology probably will not solve the long-term problem of air pollution in their country. However, it will keep the air cleaner in the near future.

Kubica says that from day one, this device immediately reduces the amount of dust released into the air. The researchers say the device will keep 60 to 90 percent of the coal ash from getting into the atmosphere.

Kubica says this technology is a short-term solution. Availability of cleaner-burning fuels depends on Poland's infrastructure. Setting up public services and systems that will allow for cleaner-burning fuels requires long-term investment.

"From the first day of its work, this device immediately reduces emissions of dust into the atmosphere. On the other hand, the transition to other cleaner fuels such as gas fuels is mostly dependent on access to infrastructure, and if it's not there -- then there are long-term investments (that are necessary.)"

This year, several hundred of these devices are being set up in the Polish town of Rybnik – a community known for its poor air quality.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Kevin Enochs wrote this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

premature adj. happening, arriving, existing, or performed before the proper, usual, or intended time

particulate matter n. the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air (also called particle pollution.) Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

naked eye n. the eye unaided by any instrument that changes the apparent size or distance of an object or otherwise alters visual powers

ionized v. to convert wholly or partly into ions

automatic adj. having controls that allow something to work or happen without being directly controlled by a person

exhaust n. the mixture of gases produced by an engine

chimney n. a part of a building through which smoke rises into the outside air

deposit v. to put or leave (someone or something) in a particular place

infrastructure n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

emission n. substances discharged into the air (as by a smokestack or an automobile engine

transition v. passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another