small plans: nanotechnology for the building industry

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Smog-eating concrete under development

Nanotechnology may play a major role in cleaning up the environment as building materials capable of scrubbing pollutants from the air come on line. According to an Associated Press report,

From catalytic converters to alternative fuels, the fight against big-city smog has

for years been fought inside combustion engines and exhaust pipes.

Now, scientists are taking the fight to the streets by developing "smart" building materials designed to clean the air with a little help from the elements.

Using technology already available for self-cleaning windows and bathroom tiles, scientists hope to paint cities with materials that dissolve and wash away pollutants when exposed to sun and rain.

"Among other things, we want to construct concrete walls that break down vehicle exhausts in road tunnels," said Karin Pettersson, a spokeswoman for Swedish construction giant
Skanska. "It is also possible to make pavings that clean the air in cities."

This is the idea: UV rays hitting the titanium dioxide trigger a catalytic reaction that destroys the molecules of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, which are emitted in the burning of fossil fuels and create smog when combined with volatile organic compounds.

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