Smog has become a huge problem in China. People are moving away from the cities in order to escape the airborne pollution, while hospitals have set up clinics dedicated to treating the effects of smog. Officials think they have found a solution in “cloud seeding” but Yu Shaocai, a professor at Zhejiang University, thinks that enormous sprinklers are the way forward.

Shaocai is an expert on the process called “wet deposition”. This is when falling rain or snow “scavenge” aerosol particles. Once polluted particles have been collected from the air, they are deposited on to the ground and that’s why the air always feels fresher after a good spell of rain.

Smog in China

Formerly an employee of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, Shaocai thinks he has a solution to starting off the wet deposition process in China’s polluted cities. In an article from the Environmental Chemistry Letters, he proposes a geoengineered urban infrastructure, i.e. giant sprinklers which can be attached to the exterior of skyscrapers and then spray water in to the polluted atmosphere, harvesting out the harmful gases and toxins.

This is not a fool proof plan, as one scientist is keen to point out. In an interview with The South China Morning Post, the scientist has reservations about the source of the water for the sprinklers and how it would be recycled. However, he does admit  “assuming his team can find a system that works, and they’ve done enough economic analysis and considered the handling of water resources, this could be a viable option.”

Shaocai himself told The South China Morning Post that the next step is to carry out tests at the Zhejiang and Hangzou Universities. This will give a better idea of how the theory will work.

There are many issues to address and questions to answer before this is implemented. For example, what will the cost be for fitting huge watering devices to skyscrapers? How will the devices be made to withstand storms, high winds and freezing temperatures? And will they be smart enough not to over-water and waste this precious commodity?

However these things are addressed, it is great to see someone trying to solve this major problem facing China. It will be interesting to see how such devices would change a skyscrapers architecture.

[Image via buzzly]