Technology

This Special Houseplant Uses Microbiomes to Clean Air 30 Times Faster Than Most

Houseplants naturally clean the the air in our homes, but a single plant, or even a handful, can only do so much. A new plant-powered air purification system launched this week by a biotech startup Neoplants seeks to accelerate the common houseplant’s ability to remove toxins from the air by up to 30 times the normal rate.

This story is part of CNET Zeroa series that chronicles the impact of climate change and explores steps being taken to tackle the problem.

The Neo Px relies on bioengineering and a microbiological solution – the same ones our intestines use – to capture and eliminate harmful volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, faster than a typical plant and supercharge them to better filter the air.

powder bottle and beaker for mixing power drops powder bottle and beaker for mixing power drops

Power drops are mixed in a provided beaker using water and a proprietary powder, then added to soil to supercharge a common houseplant.

David Watsky/CNET

I had the chance to meet the French co-founders of Neoplant, Lionel Mora and Patrick Torbey, about Neo Px and the broader objectives of their biotechnology project. Torbey, who holds a doctorate in genomic engineering, explained that this is the first time this particular scientific process has been used to boost phytoremediation, the process by which plants purify the air and combat household problems. air pollutants. Neoplant’s claims are supported by this peer-reviewed study (PDF) conducted alongside IMT, a French university.

the interior of the self-watering is removed from the base the interior of the self-watering is removed from the base

The self-watering pot only needs to be refilled every two or three weeks.

David Watsky/CNET

The Neo Px does not eliminate the same particles as a HEPA air purifier, so it is not an individual replacement of these machines, explained Mora, CEO of the company. Instead, the plant-powered system is comprised of a minimalist, self-watering pot and a proprietary power drop solution – a powder mixed with water – that when added to soil , increases the natural capture and elimination of VOCs such as benzene, toluene and xylene.

person testing gas stove holding appliance person testing gas stove holding appliance

A 2022 study showed that natural gas stoves leak harmful amounts of benzene, even when not in use.

Brett Tyron

This trio of harmful chemicals, often referred to as “BTX,” are emitted from common household items, including furniture, nail polish, paint, plastic packaging, and household cleaning products.

If benzene looks familiar to you, that’s because two recent studies appeared natural gas cookers leak harmful amounts of benzene when not in use and the chemical may be responsible for childhood asthma and other health complications. When the Neo Px microbiome captures benzene, it breaks it down into carbon sources like amino acids and sugars which are then used to nourish the plant itself.

The Neo Px may not be as effective at removing solid particles, including smoke and dust, from the air as electronic air purifiers, but unlike those models, the Neo Px system does not require no electricity, makes no noise and is always “on”.

tabletop purifier tabletop purifier

The new centrally powered Neo Px is not intended to replace air purifiers.

Screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

The plant used in the startup’s first Neo Px air purification system is a Marble Queen Pothos, but Torbey told me they are working on a genetically modified plant for the next iteration that could have the potential to purify air. air at an even higher level.

Although Mora and Torbey would not give details, they hinted that this technology could be used on a larger scale to help combat broader air pollution and some of the most acute human health problems linked to climate change and resulting from it. global warming.

The Neo Px Microbiome Purification System is available now at The Néoplant website. It costs $119 and includes six months of power cuts. To operate at full power, the ground requires the addition of recharge drops every three months. Refills cost $39, or $13 per month.

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