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Published on April 29th, 2009 | by Levi Novey


Peru Uses New “Super Tree” Technology to Fight Air Pollution

A device invented by Peruvians known as the “Super Tree” has recently made its debut in Lima, a city plagued with extreme air pollution. The Super Tree acts like 1200 real trees, purifying the air for approximately 20,000 people a day, at the cost of only about $6.

The super tree (super arbol) air purifier

[social_buttons]The company Tierra Nuestra (Our Earth) is behind the Super Tree, and hopes to begin exporting the technology. The company’s goal is to promote conservation through the development of new technologies and renewable energy.

One of the Super Tree’s developers, Jorge Gutierrez, noted in an interview that “the idea is to take them to most of the countries that have this problem and to be able to work on a world scale to improve people’s health.” The cost of a Super Tree is currently around $100,000 dollars, or about $5 per person’s daily need of clean air.

So how does it work? The Super Tree basically sucks in outside air, then under thermodynamic pressure combines the toxic elements in the air with water, and then pumps out clean air. Byproducts of the process include some mud and non-potable water that can be easily pumped into sewer systems. The Super Tree (“super arbol” in spanish) cleans about 200,000 cubic meters of air per day, eliminating polluting gases like carbon dioxide, as well as germs and bacteria.

The Super Tree is a terrific application of an appropriate technology, as the World Health Organization claims that Lima has an average level of air pollution 9 times higher than what is considered to be acceptable for healthy living. Lima has even recently required traffic officers to wear gas masks. Used cars are thought to be responsible for 86% of the air pollution in Lima and the average car is about 18 years old.

Visiting the Super Tree

The Super Tree can be found at the intersection of Aviacion Avenue and Primavera Avenue, where the districts of Surquillo, San Borja, and Surco meet. I first noticed the Super Tree when driving by last week because it located near to where I live, and I realized that it was a new structure.

If you take a look at the photograph I took above, you will see that the Super Tree comes complete with an educational booth. I stepped into the booth to see if the air seemed cleaner, and to me it did (but don’t expect to be amazed). The information available in the booth is very basic, and could be improved. Tierra Nuestra’s website has much more detailed information for the curious.

The mayor of Surquillo has pledged to install at least 20 Super Trees, and Tierra Nuestra hopes to install 400 trees throughout Lima in the next four years– so there will be an opportunity to improve the educational and promotional efforts at the trees themselves. That said, the Super Tree is a fantastic innovation that will undoubtedly improve quality of life for the citizens of Lima and other cities plagued by air pollution.

Photo Credit: © Levi T. Novey

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About the Author

Levi Novey is a conservation professional who has received a bachelor's degree in History from Tufts University and a master's degree in Conservation Social Sciences from the University of Idaho. He worked for the U.S. National Park Service for 10 years, as a park ranger in 6 national parks, as a social science researcher in 5 parks, and as the science communicator for a Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring Network that serves 9 parks. He has authored several scholarly papers as well as several guidebooks to U.S. national parks.

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