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Artfully Painting a Path to Purer Air

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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One of the world’s dirtiest cities is harnessing both art and science in attempting to paint its way to cleaner air.

 The project involves eight 1,000-square meter murals painted along a 15-mile stretch of roadway.

 Photos: YouTube / Al Jazeera

The project involves eight 1,000-square-meter murals painted along a 15-mile stretch of roadway.

Manila, the Philippine capital, has taken the “smog-eating building” concept to the street, piloting the use of an air-purifying coating right where most smog starts: vehicle emissions.

Not only that, but it is doing so artistically.


The urban renewal initiative, called EDSA (Everyone Deserves Safe Air), aims to reduce air pollution along Manila’s bustling Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (also known as EDSA) through large-scale roadside murals painted with a pollution-eating coating.

The capital’s busiest street, EDSA carries millions of vehicles each day.

The massive collaboration involves, among others, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), artists, curators, paint chemists, painting crews, traffic enforcers, and specialists in urban planning, public health, art and environmentalism.

Organizers call it the world’s first large-scale public art project using anti-noxious paints. Eleven international artists conceptualized the murals.

‘Air-Purifying’ Coating

At the center of the effort is a coating called KNOxOUT, by Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines Inc. The company was founded in 1953 and, in 1960, acquired the license to manufacture paints by the Walter N. Boysen Co. of Oakland, CA.

Boysen unveiled KNOxOUT in 2008, calling it “the first air-cleaning paint in the world with CristalActiv photocatalytic technology.”

The coating uses an ultrafine form of titanium dioxide “that absorbs energy from light and transforms ordinary water vapor into hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals at the surface of the TiO2,” the company says.

 Cars on Manila’s most polluted street pass a colorful bridge support painted with a “pollution-eating” protective coating.
Cars on Manila’s most polluted street pass a colorful bridge support painted with a “pollution-eating” protective coating.

In doing so, the product “break[s] down noxious air pollutants and convert[s] them into harmless substances,” the company says. “Any surface coated with KNOxOUT becomes an active air-purifying surface that helps protect people from harmful gases.”

Boysen says the coating also has self-cleaning, anti-bacterial and deodorizing properties and can help reduce smog in urban areas with high nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels from vehicle emissions. (The coating can also be used in parking garages, where it is activated by fluorescent light.)

The Smell of Success?

The Manila initiative is using KNOxOUT to paint eight murals—each 1,000 square meters—along a 15-mile stretch of EDSA. The idea is to have the coating neutralize pollutants right at the source.

The early results have been positive, says Dr. James B. Simpas, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics of the Ateneo de Manila University. He is also the head of the Urban Air Quality program of the Manila Observatory.

Simpas told one reporter that he had documented a reduction of nearly 20 percent in pollutants along the street since the project began.


Tagged categories: Acrylic; Coatings manufacturers; Emissions; Titanium dioxide

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