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High-Tech Outerwear Designed to Fight Air Pollution

Behold, the ultimate in green fashion: a jacket that identifies and cleanses foul air.

Nieuwe Heren

The Netherlands-based design house Nieuwe Heren likes to ponder a dark future in which we're all fighting for our lives. For example, in anticipation of growing civil unrest designers Erik De Nijs and Tim Smit whipped together a "fashionable and wearable armor" that they call the urban security suit. Now you can run through a storm of government bullets while looking fabulous in bone-lined Kevlar threads.

But the danger they see isn't strictly human-made: It's all around us, in the air. Insidious smog streams flowing from developing countries like China and India are raising air pollution to deadly heights. With moving out of the city or squatting indoors with a towel under the door not an option for many folks, what's a health and style-conscious citizen to do?

The Utrecht design firm's answer is the "aegis parka," a piece of interactive outerwear that identifies and mitigates damaging inhalants. Named for the all-powerful shield of Zeus, the jacket has several levels of environmental defense.

The first is a network of LEDs situated around the parka that light up in the presence of bad air. The worse the air quality, the more lights activate, turning the wearer into a sort of Christmas Tree of Peril for other pedestrians.

The clothing also includes a type of respirator snap it over your maw and a carbon-filter inside works to detoxify the smog you're breathing. Then there's this planetary-pleasing feature, which the designers describe thus:

Biking/walking through the city wearing this garment even contributes to the air quality, as the suit is treated with a TiO2 (titaniumdioxide) solution, which cleanses the air due to it’s photocatalystic properties.

While that might be hard to believe, TiO2 is in fact sometimes used in building materials to help cleanse local foul air. So the claim is supported in theory, although the effect on net air quality would probably be zero. Neat idea, though.

Oh, and because the climate shows no chance of getting cooler soon, the jacket is knitted together with heat-resistant ceramic particles and "millions of microcapsules filled with Phase Change Materials" that regulate the body temperature. No price tag on this thing yet, but I'm guessing it would be more than your average North Face coat.

Images courtesy of Nieuwe Heren. More can be found on the company's website.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.