ANDREA – an air purifier which uses indoor plants to filter air
It is said that the air we breathe in the places where we live and work can often be 5 to 10 times more noxious than walking on the street, along with the dangerous chemicals found in commonly used household products. Designed by Mathieu Lehanneur and David Edwards of Harvard University, ANDREA is an air purifier which uses indoor plants to filter air. Originally known as BelAir, the design has gone through a number of tests in order to make it available to consumers with updated features.
The device relies on plant’s natural phytoremediation capabilities to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Simply place any houseplant inside the container and the integrated, specially designed fan draws in ambient air toxins and circulates them around the plant’s leaves and roots, which absorb and metabolize the toxins. Although any plant can be used, the best performing plants are those which are actually quite common, including Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), Marginita Dracaena (red edged Dragon Tree), Chlorophytum comosum (Spider Plant) and Aloe Vera.
Drawing on NASA research, the botanical air purifier removes common household VOCs, including formaldehyde and other toxins emitted from paint, carpets, and adhesives, and re-circulates clean air into your home.
ANDREA employs both active plant filtration, along with water and soil to provide a multistage system that cleans the air from harmful toxins that can irritate and be harmful to us. It naturally purifies air by drawing it with a fan to propel it through the leaves and root system of a plant, and then out through water and soil filtration and back into the room environment. A removable tray in the base allows you to easily water the plant and you can adjust the fan speed by turning a dial. Its dimensions of 32cm in diameter and 45cm in height are suitable for use in rooms of any size.
Its designers claim it significantly improves the air filtration capacity of natural plants. This living filter accelerates room pollutants through the active infrastructure system of a plant to continuously clean and oxygenate the rooms in your home. Based on experiments performed by RTP Labs, Andrea improves the efficiency of formaldehyde removal from the air relative to plants alone by 360%. Relative to HEPA and carbon filters, comparison between the RTP Labs data and literature data show an improvement in formaldehyde filtration efficiency of 4400%.
Their data confirms that while plants alone in an interior setting are more efficient than HEPA and carbon filters at removing toxic gases from the air, they are significantly less efficient than Andrea. Even more important, the rate of gas removal by Andrea is, according to the RTP Labs data, over 1000% faster than for plants alone. That is, Andrea dramatically accelerates the efficiency of air cleaning relative to plants alone.
And here come the downsides. The design itself, although minimalistic and functional, could be a lot better. It reminds of a small water-cooler, and the tilted shape of it as well as the placement of the fan makes it difficult to rotate it or place in a non-default position. That can’t be right for the plant’s necessity for light and its healthy growth. Another downside is its price. The developers claim it took them almost a quarter of a million dollars to develop the product. Once we saw the presentation and were charmed by their simple idea to make the air-circulation faster in order to purify air in a more natural way, we expected it to be much more affordable than it currently is (almost 200$).
So, we leave it up to you to call it a necessity in everyone’s home or workspace, or a not-so-perfect expensive tech flower pot.