City tree, urban furniture that fights pollution

A German start-up has created innovative plant structures capable of decreasing the concentration of all fine particles…

A City Tree infrastructure in Cork, Ireland (Photo: Green City Solutions)
A City Tree infrastructure in Cork, Ireland (Photo: Green City Solutions)

Cities need to breathe again: to fight pollution, to bring down the levels of fine, to safeguard the health of citizens and, ultimately, to reduce mortality related to bad air management.
There is no shortage of strategies: and if planting trees and optimizing green management is the simplest and most immediate answer to the problem, today there are also many technological solutions which, hand in hand with nature, contribute to improving the air we breathe in our cities.
This is precisely the heart of CityTree, an innovative project that aims at fight pollution in urban centres.

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An example of City Tree in Hamersmith, London. These green infrastructures, in addition to cleaning the air, also act as benches and places for socializing within the city (Photo: Green City Solutions)
An example of City Tree in Hamersmith, London. These green infrastructures, in addition to cleaning the air, also act as benches and places for socializing within the city (Photo: Green City Solutions)

Green infrastructure that lets cities breathe

CityTree it's a'plant infrastructure designed for reduce the level of fine dust e mitigate the phenomenon of heat islands.
Tested within the European project "City Tree Scaler" which saw the participation of ENEA, CNR-ISAC and Consorzio Proambiente, this new technology is an innovative jewel conceived and created by Green City Solutions, a German start-up that has managed to bring nature and technology together in a single powerful object.
The secret of this plant infrastructure is the moss, which serves as an actual air filter: just think that a single structure, according to data from ENEA and the Proambiente consortium, is capable of absorbing 240 tons of CO2 per year, equaling the action of no less than 275 trees, however using only 1 percent of the space.

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The founder of Green City Solutions, Peter Sänger, inside the moss factory, where the species included in the vegetable trees are cultivated (Photo: Green City Solutions)
One of the founders of Green City Solutions, Peter Sänger, inside the moss factory, where the species included in the vegetable trees are grown (Photo: Green City Solutions)

IoT technology at the service of the environment

The power of biotechnology is boundless: we learn from the natural world to enhance its effects for the benefit of living beings and the planet.
In the case of City Tree, as anticipated, the secret is all in the moss, an inconspicuous and very ancient plant which, however, possesses innumerable capabilities. In addition to capturing fine dust, musk is in fact antiseptic, antiviral and fungicidal.
It is a real one handyman plant which can be used to control air pollution, especially when it comes to technology.
Inside City Tree the moss does an excellent job: 50 percent of the particulate matter is metabolized and then used as food; 25 percent of fine particles are metabolized by microorganisms; the remaining 25 percent of fine dust is finally stored in the sediments of the moss itself.
The panels can then be changed and, after a treatment in Green City Solution's moss farm, can return to clean urban air for another six months.

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The plant species hosted in the panels

City Tree appears as a large self-supporting panel which, only 60 centimeters deep, contains inside two different varieties of moss. The Leucobryum glaucum "Polstermoos" species is positioned on the outermost panel, because it is particularly robust and able to resist sunlight.
On the other hand, the typology is positioned in the innermost panel Amblystegium varium “Plattenmoos”, because to thrive it must live in an environment characterized by little direct sunlight.
La active ventilation it allows hot, impure air from the urban environment to pass through the moss panels, which will then release fresh, clean air outside.
And the good news is that this plant structure needs very little maintenance: in fact, sensors are inserted inside it that monitor the vitality of the moss which, thanks to a algorithm bio, they will receive the right amount of water and nourishment, so as not to waste resources. The sensors also constantly monitor the performance of the panels on the environment, returning the data to Green City Solution, which for transparency includes them in its ESG and sustainability report.

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The City Tree installation located in the historic center of Modena
The City Tree installation located in the historic center of Modena

City Tree is also operational in Italy

CityTree it is present in leopard spots in many European cities, so much so that today there are 80 active projects.
In 2018, after the city of London ascertained the effectiveness of these innovative green infrastructures, the entire project was approved and financed by Climate-Kic, which has been committed since 2010 to promoting the birth of a net zero society.
After London and many other European cities, these filtering artificial trees they have also arrived in the beautiful country and, in particular, in the city of Modena.
Here the project was started in 2020, the year in which the first panel was installed, followed by the others. Researchers from the CNR and the Proambiente Consortium evaluated the performance of the vegetable filter panels positioned in the Emilian city, whose findings were then published in the atmosphere magazine in 2021.

Talking about it on the ENEA website was Maria Gabriella Villani, a researcher at the Atmospheric Pollution Laboratory who was in charge of the research: “Starting from these results, we reproduced, with modeling tools and thanks to the ENEA CRESCO6 supercomputer, the concentrations of pollutants observed in the field and studied the actual reductions in PM10 and nitrogen oxides (NOx) obtained thanks to City Tree, together with extension of the area affected by felling. In filtering mode, the device guarantees a reduction of up to 15 percent of PM10“. A reduction of up to 20 percent was then observed in PM2.5, 13 percent for PM1, 38 percent for ultrafine particles and 17 percent for black carbon. The panels have a filtering action on the surrounding area, approximately 200 mXNUMX.

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"We Grow Fresh Air" is the payoff of Green City Solution which, in its moss "farm", manages to grow moss 16 times faster than the species in nature. Laboratories and greenhouses are highly digitized, so as to obtain maximum yield with minimum energy expenditure (Photo: Green City Solutions)
“We Grow Fresh Air” is the payoff of Green City Solution, which in its moss “farm” manages to grow moss 16 times faster than the species in nature. Laboratories and greenhouses are highly digitized, so as to obtain maximum yield with minimum energy expenditure (Photo: Green City Solutions)

Smart solutions for cities that breathe

- street furniture I am undoubtedly a important help to improve air qualityespecially in heavily polluted areas. On the subject, the aforementioned Maria Gabriella Villani also states that "Technologies such as City Tree represent innovative solutions in continuous evolution and working on this area is one of the major interests of our laboratory. Certainly by themselves they cannot solve the problem of air pollution in cities, but they nonetheless represent smart solutions to improve not only air quality but, more generally, the quality of life, protecting biodiversity, reducing the effects of heat and redeveloping the urban fabric with new meeting places".

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From biotech to ecological roads

The road to net zero is long, but it is necessary shorten the distances that separate us from climate neutrality as soon as possible.
And together with biotechnologies, a lot can be done in every productive sector: from mobility to infrastructures, even the roads we travel on every day they can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
La materials technology, in fact, has developed high-performance natural blends capable not only of not distorting the nature of the terrain, both in nature and in the city, but at the same time making it suitable for vehicles and cycles.
In Italy one of the leaders in the sector of natural floors è solid earth, which has made the sustainable revolution its banner. From renewable energies to City Tree's artificial trees, from eco-friendly roads to sustainable mobility, a greener and healthier future seems to be just around the corner.

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The moss carpets are ready to be installed inside city trees where, thanks to a ventilation system and sensors, they will be able to thrive independently: a bio-algorithm is able to perfectly calculate the amount of nourishment they need to live (Photo: Green City Solutions)
The moss carpets are ready to be installed inside city trees where, thanks to a ventilation system and sensors, they will be able to thrive independently: a bio-algorithm is able to perfectly calculate the amount of nourishment they need to live (Photo: Green City Solutions)