Study Indicates Concrete Removes Air Pollutants


Researchers out of Stony Brook University have confirmed that concrete can help deal with rising pollution levels.

Sulfur dioxide, a major contributor to air pollution, can be removed from the air by concrete surfaces. Alex Orlov and associate researchers learned that concrete eliminates sulfur and nitrogen oxides. Their findings, which were published in the July issue of the Journal of Chemical Engineering, could start paving the way toward using waste concrete in the ongoing bid to minimize air pollution, Stony Brook University noted in a press release.

Pollution Absorption

According to the World Health Organization, seven million premature deaths each year are most likely linked to pollution and poor air quality. The emission of sulfur dioxide is one of the most prevalent offenders, and power plants emit the most sulfur dioxide. Cement kilns, on the other hand, account for 20 percent of all industrial sulfur dioxide emissions.

While concrete production causes air pollution, concrete buildings can serve as a proverbial sponge for absorbing the common pollutant, explained Orlov, faculty member of the Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research at Stony Brook University.

“Our findings open up the possibility that waste concrete coming from building demolitions can be used to adsorb these pollutants," he said.

In the press release, Orlov added that concrete remains one of the most widely used materials in the world, and is also relatively inexpensive. He advised that using a pollution-causing material and turning it into a solution to address pollution concerns could “lead to new thinking in urban design and waste management.”

Sulfur dioxide, a major contributor to air pollution, can be removed from the air by concrete surfaces.

The researcher did note that, as concrete ages, it loses some of its ability to absorb pollutants as it ages. By crushing concrete, new surfaces are exposed and can restore the building material’s pollution-removing properties.

Research Methods

To conduct experiments, researchers used concrete and concreted-based building materials, along with employing Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy and X-ray absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy to identify different levels of sulfur dioxide adsorption.

Experiments were conducted at Stony Brook University, the National University of Singapore and Brookhaven National Laboratory’s National Synchrotron Light Source and Center for Functional Nanomaterials.


Tagged categories: Air pollution control; Asia Pacific; concrete; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Green building; Latin America; North America

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.