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Capture & recovery of harmful particulates from ambient air, indoors and out.

Photo of Rupert
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Nike-Air utilises the open, airy, felt-like properties of post-consumer footwear fibre 'Fluff' to trap & retain particulates that are increasingly present in ambient air. The objective is to improve air quality where the need is most acute and in doing so reduce the well-documented negative impacts on human health.

The capture function operates in a similar way to the tiny hairs on the surface of Silver Birch tree leaves, or the needles of Douglass fir trees. The Nike Grind fibre 'Fluff' combines the two functional benefits of these types of tree, because it has a particularly 'hairy' texture (like the Birch), but can also be configured to maximise surface area (like the fir).

Scientific studies have identified the efficacy of trees in capturing surprisingly large quantities of particulates in urban environments (3,184 million/m2), although it is not clear what happens to the particles during high winds, or if rain merely washes the particles down to road level, where they are wafted back into the air by passing vehicles.

The entangled structure of the fibre 'Fluff' lends itself to trapping the particles deep inside the material, however, suitable washing or other treatment when required, will enable the particles to be recovered in a controlled manner and potentially put to use. (See the Air Ink project in Bangalore)

In addition to the natural efficacy of the 'Fluff', when used outdoors, it will be possible to further engineer the application, in concert with existing structures, trees, etc to produce improved capture by manipulating airflow, slowing windspeed to aid deposition and ensuring that any runoff from the material is captured for recovery later.

Which Nike Grind materials will your idea utilize?

  • Footwear Fiber "Fluff"
  • Synthetic Leather

How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?

In order to make use of 'Fluff' as described, it will be necessary to process the material to prevent it simply falling apart. Initial experimentation with heat and pressure indicates that it may be possible to bind one side of the material together with no additives to produce a sheet with one side structural, the other 'furry' and absorbent. If further structure is required, the samples of scrap synthetic leather pieces from the Open ODEO London workshop have enough TPE on the surface to act as an adhesive when sufficient heat is applied. This material could be used as a structural laminate. If this proves not to be possible, the 'fluff' can still be effective, but will need to be contained in a porous membrane which will allow air to pass through to the fluff with minimum resistance, but not allow the fluff to fall out.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Anyone who regularly breathes air containing particulates that may damage their health. One area of particular interest and public appeal is in the capture of roadside PM10 and PM2.5 particulate matter from vehicle exhaust and brake pads which are known to be carcinogenic. See Business model canvas for further information.

How will you scale your idea? Please describe in detail your plan to scale your concept.

After proof of concept, ideally in conjunction with a city authority, such as Transport For London (TFL), London City hall, or similar body abroad, the material could be made available commercially for others to re-apply & further develop under licence for use in innumerable applications where air quality is a concern, some examples that are prevalent the globe over are listed below:- Airports, Construction sites Traffic and haulage hubs factories and workshops

How is your idea innovative?

Using second - life , post-consumer waste to mimic a naturally occurring process, seen in trees, is innovative in terms of circularity, but also offers some opportunities to engineer the material structure and implementation to avoid some of the deficiencies presented by relying on greening to capture particulates. Particularly optimising deposition and reducing the potential for particulate run-off when used out of doors where wind & rain can cause the release to the biosphere.

What inspired this idea?

The plight of Londoners who live in a heavily populated and highly polluted environment and has come into sharp focus in recent years. Whilst the problem is a global one, our Mayor, Sadiq Kahn has developed adult asthma and has done a great deal to raise awareness of the problem.

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

The team consists of Ben Colman and Rupert Wyllie. We are a pair of product designers and engineers, with expensive experience in FMCG packaging and durable consumer goods - including bicycles.

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?

United Kingdom

What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

Informal - friends collaborating

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

Being selected will allow us to experiment with processing the fluff into an applicable substrate and support open air trials The opportunity to collaborate with Nike engineers in phase two, would be an invaluable component in developing a potentially significant application for Nike Grind.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Seriag

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with extra information? It is extremely helpful for me.

Photo of Flick Hardingham

Hi Rupert! I'm Flick, one of the OpenIDEO London Chapter organisers. Great to meet at the Nike Grind launch event and awesome to see you've submitted an idea. We're running a Refinement Stage event next Thursday 31 March to help teams develop ideas further. Would you like to join and gather feedback from the group? You can book your spot here:


Photo of Rupert

Hi Flick, good to meet you too.
Do you know something I don't?! - I guess we'll see on the 29th what the shortlist looks like and take it from there..
In the event that none of the ideas from London get nominated, what are you anticipating will get done at the session next Thursday; or am I missing the point?


Photo of Flick Hardingham

Hey! Unfortunately, we've had no sneak previews, but will use the 31 May to help teams develop prototypes further and understand how to make them happen - with or without input from Nike or OpenIDEO. :-D

Photo of Rupert

I see. Hannah has been in touch and we're both curious to see where you're going to go with this, so I guess I'll see you this evening...

Photo of Michael Coelho Sillman

so use recyclable materials to make air filters? I could get behind this.

Photo of Rupert

Hi Michael, cheers for commenting.
In essence, you're spot on, although we've been careful not to describe this as an 'air filter' because that is generally associated with trapping particulates in a flow of air into or out of a fixed space, often with high pressures involved (think of an air filter on a car or vacuum cleaner).
That sort of filter requires a specific aperture size to be effective and the grade of filtration is dictated by the size of particle that can pass through. I'm not currently convinced it's practical to organise the fibre in any of the Grind materials sufficiently well to get a specific aperture, but that's ok, what we propose is a different kind of filtering: passive entrapment.
We're not forcing air through the material, we're using the surface area and fibrous nature to 'entrap' particles in the ambient air passing over it (and hopefully through it, if we can avoid having to laminate the back of the material).

I make the comparison with the way trees with hairy leaves remove particles from the air in the submission. Essentially we want to improve on that and also make sure the particles don't fall back on the ground when the wind blows too hard!

Unfortunately, there wasn't time to create a visualisation of the idea in the end, but our ambition for this goes from very simple: producing absorbent 'blankets' of various kinds to add or integrate into structures etc. To more ambitious: binding the 'Fluff' together sufficiently well so that we can create appealing, free-standing structures, possibly even mimicking trees visually as well as functionally.
(This would require an underlying framework or similar, I'm not expecting the material to be that structural!)
Blimey, that went on a bit, I hope it helped!

Rupert & Ben.

Photo of John

Never throw those things in wastage material and not in the bin because those things we use again by the recycling. Student must follow this that after visit that custom website
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Photo of Rupert

Hi John.
I'd rather you didn't use the comments section of my competition entry to make statements that don't relate to my submission, especially when all you appear to be doing is promoting a website which describes itself as 'the biggest library of free movies and tv shows'.