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Can This NASA-Inspired Indoor Vertical Garden Clean Air Better Than a Purifier?

In a modern house or office, the air inside can actually be two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors. And if you're like the average person, you spend around 90 percent of your time inside. State-of-the-art design can help solve the problem: architects can design for good ventilation, and product designers can design furniture, carpets, and paints that don't pollute the air. But what if you're stuck with a stuffy apartment and a formaldehyde-filled couch?

Some studies, including one from NASA in the 1980s, have suggested that plants can be part of the answer by acting as natural air filters. Certain plants are especially good at absorbing chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The leaves do some of the work, and microbes in the root system do the rest. Inspired to make the ultimate plant-filled air filter, a group of Finnish designers created FreshWall, a vertical garden that they claim can make each plant as much as 100 times more efficient at purifying air than a standard pot of fern or ivy.

The plants are grown without soil, in a special growth medium the designers say contains millions of microbes, which amplifies the plant's ability to clean the air. The wall structure that holds the plants also has fans that help circulate air through the root system. It's also designed to be a simple way to take care of plants, since the unit is self-watering, and a way for people without garden space outside to bring herbs and veggies indoors.

Does it really work to purify air? There isn't clear proof yet, though it will be interesting to follow. For now, I'm going to hope that my ordinary houseplants are helping filter the grime of the Brooklyn streets outside.

Image courtesy of FreshWall

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