China has a pretty bad air pollution problem, with smog levels often dozens of times higher than health officials consider to be safe. This week Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde proposed a possible solution: a giant vacuum (of sorts) that could suck the smog right out of the air.

Roosegaarde's concept itself is called SMOG. He suggests using copper coils, buried beneath the ground, to attract the dangerous particulate matter from the air via an electrostatic field. He told The Guardian the idea works like the static electricity that makes a balloon stick to your head.

The artist told the design magazine Dezeen that the SMOG system would purify the air. "It creates these holes of 50-60 meters of clean air so you can see the sun again." You can see that at work in this short concept video:

Roosegaarde, who came up with the idea while on a business trip to sooty Beijing, teamed with the Technical University of Delft to build a prototype, which he has already tested indoors in a 25-square-meter room where it created a "smog-free hole of one cubic meter." Now Beijing has given him permission to run a pilot project and try the SMOG system out on one of their parks – assuming he can gather the funding to do it.

Perhaps more than cleaning the air, Roosegaarde says the SMOG system would illustrate the severity of Beijing's air pollution problem. The process would electrify the particles in the air, making them fall to the ground. "It could be a first step in creating awareness of how bad it really is," he told Dezeen, "because you see the difference really clearly. You would literally see it on the ground. What I would like to do is capture all that smog and then compress it. So for example you could make a smog ring of all the smog in a cubic kilometer. It would show the reality and question why we accept it."

The artist says it will take 12 to 15 months to design the next prototype for the pilot project and ensure that it will be safe to people, although he described the system as "pacemaker-safe."

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