While ‘rolling’ through the streets of London, Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) 2020 award winner Kristen Tapping came up with the idea for Rolloe, a bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution.

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person on bike with blue wheels

With an understanding that the motion of bike wheels creates kinetic energy, Tapping, a third-year product design student from London South Bank University, began developing a prototype out of cardboard cutouts. Using smoke from incense and a basic fan, she sampled myriad variations.

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Although the idea is scalable to a number of applications, Tapping started with bike wheels because they are similar to the existing technology in air filters. To avoid “recreating the wheel,” Tapping experimented with a variety of techniques to produce the vacuum and expulsion required to pull the dirty air into the device and release the filtered air out through the other side. The clean air stream is directed toward the rider’s face and surrounding area.

diagram of air filter in bike tire

With the final design structure in place, Tapping fitted loofah, HEPA and activated carbon filters to capture large and small particulates as well as noxious gases from the air. From there, the concept is simple. While in motion, the fins pull air through four layers of filtration, cleaning the air while the rider cycles through the country or polluted city. While anyone can use Rolloe, the main target market is currently bike commuters and community bike share applications.

As an added incentive to help improve air quality, Rolloe will connect to an app that allows riders to share distance information and set goals. Participants can then be rewarded with credits to local businesses based on the amount of miles they peddle. According to Tapping, “If 10% of all London cyclists had one Rolloe installed on their bike, they would filter approximately 266,865m³ of air — 20 times the size of Trafalgar Square.”

diagram of air-filtering bike tire

The filters can be cleaned and reused. The parts are also designed to be easily taken apart for assembly or disassembly and recycling at the end of their lifespan. Rolloe is currently in development and aims to be commercially available by early 2022. The final product will be made from recycled plastic materials using injection molding. Tapping also has plans to create a rear-wheel Rolloe for twice the filtering power per ride.

+ Rolloe

Images via Kristen Tapping