This 3D printed bike wheel is capable of purifying the air

Rolloe Roll Off Emissions prototype: Winner of the Design Innovation in Polymer 2020 award. Sponsored by IOM3 & Covestro. © KRISTEN TAPPIN

The shift from cars to bicycles is already an important step towards cleaner air, especially in big cities, where pollution is reaching alarming levels. But what if we could go one step further? What if bicycles could help reduce pollution by purifying the air around us? Well, industrial designer Kristen Tapping invented just that. She designed the Rolloe model, a wheel consisting of three different filters capable of purifying the air of pollutants. She actually used 3D printing to prototype various parts of the innovative wheel. Using ABS, nylon, and stainless steel, Kristen has developed 600 x 600 x 600mm wheel prototypes hoping that they will help reduce pollution in our cities.

Rolloe Roll Off Emissions: Innovative bike wheels that remove pollution from the air

The idea came while cycling around London. In traffic, the heat, the gases, and the smell really get you aware of the pollution. Concerned about environmental problems, Kristen Tapping pointed out all the sources of pollution that may exist in our cities, sharing statistics that are not reassuring for our planet. For example, road transport is responsible for 70% of nitrogen dioxide emissions and 30% of dangerous particles in the air. All of this got her thinking: If air purifiers use circulation to filter air, why not using the spinning wheels of vehicles to catch pollution in the prime place that it’s happening? In Rolloe’s case, we see the active use of 3D printing technology to purify the air using bicycle wheels.

Picture: Kristen Tapping, an industrial design graduated from London Southbank University holding the Rolloe prototype. Her award-winning invention, Rolloe Roll Off Emissions, transforms the humble bicycle wheel into an air purifier that sucks in polluted air, filters out the pollutants, and releases the clean air back out into the world. So far, this would be one of the greenest ways to truly travel carbon-negative. © KRISTEN TAPPING.

A partially 3D printed project for the benefit of the environment

The Rolloe wheel is made up of different parts that can be produced through 3D printing or injection molding. It integrates two ABS finned wheels and a nylon disc, two thermoplastics with great resistance to shocks. Kristen used Stainless steel to manufacture the shaft. Inside the rim, the designer placed three different types of filters. First, the air is channeled through the inner cylindrical opening of the rim, then filtered, and finally expelled through the outer fins. During this cycle, air purification could be carried out at a speed of 0.665 m³ per kilometer.

Kristen explains the different functions of the filters: “The first is a natural loofah sponge that traps large particles. It is washable, reusable and 100% biodegradable. Then there is a washable HEPA filter, which traps pollen and some large particles like dust. Finally, the third filter is an activated carbon filter to trap individual gas molecules. Therefore, it is ideal for filtering volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and even odors ”. The young designer also specifies that it will be necessary to change the filters every 250 km approximately.

Diagram: Manufacturing, Specifications & Materials of the Rolloe Bike Wheel. © KRISTEN TAPPIN
Diagram: Rolloe 3d printed bike wheel prototype. Caption: Three filters are inserted into the rim to retain airborne contaminants. Air is sucked into the wheel, filtered and released back into the world. © KRISTEN TAPPIN

Rolloe’s Scalability

At the moment, Rolloe is still in the testing phase and must try different filter methods. However, Kristen has already done her numbers. If all Santander bikes were equipped with wheels of this type in London (the London bike share system), we could filter 79,865 m3 of air. That’s 4 times the size of Trafalgar Square! Eventually, the idea would be to equip Rolloe with a tracking device to locate the bike and calculate the distance traveled in real-time, but also to share the trips with the community, track the amount of filtered air, etc. In this way, Kristen hopes to create social commitment and raise awareness among city dwellers about pollution issues. You can find more details about the award-winning design HERE.

Picture: Scalability of the project. Caption: Bicycle wheel that uses movement to actively purify air using washable filters. Rolloe wheels operate in prime polluted roadways and require zero energy to function. The concept is targeted at ride sharing bicycles such as Santander and Mobike rewarding consumers based on distance traveled. © KRISTEN TAPPING

If 10% of all London cyclists had one Rolloe installed on their bike, they would filter approximately 20 times the size of Trafalgar Square.

Kristen Tapping

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