A ‘concrete’ solution to tackle Air pollution?

Air pollution is the world’s single biggest environmental health risk and now, a recent study could be a roadmap to tackle the problem.

The Stony Brook University researchers revealed that sulphur dioxide, a major contributor to air pollution, is removed from the air by concrete surfaces.

Researchers Alex Orlov and colleagues discovered how concrete interacts and eliminates sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Their findings could be a significant step toward the practice of using waste concrete to minimise air pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, as many as seven million premature deaths of people worldwide may be linked to poor air quality and pollution. Sulphur dioxide emissions are among the most common pollutants into the air globally, with power plants emitting the most sulphur dioxide. Cement kilns also produce approximately 20 percent of all sulphur dioxide industrial emissions.

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“Even though producing concrete causes air pollution, concrete buildings in urban areas can serve as a kind of sponge adsorbing sulphur dioxide to a high level,” explained Orlov. “Our findings open up the possibility that waste concrete coming from building demolitions can be used to adsorb these pollutants.”

He added that concrete remains the most widely used material in the world and is inexpensive. Because of this, Orlov emphasised that “the strategy of using pollution causing the material and turning it into an environmental solution could lead to new thinking in urban design and waste management.”

Orlov cautioned that the capacity for concrete to adsorb pollutants diminishes over time as the material ages. Crushing concrete, however, can expose new surfaces and restore its pollution removing properties.

The researchers used various cement and cement-based building materials to conduct their experiments.

The results are published in the Journal of Chemical Engineering.

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