Researchers Develop New Concrete for Clean Air

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14, 2023


The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology’s Green Construction by Photocatalyst Research Group has reportedly developed a photocatalytic concrete that can remove fine particulate matter from roads.

Specifically focused on underground tunnels, the team states that this concrete can reduce fine particulate matter generation through reactions to artificial light sources.

According to the report, the best way to improve internal air quality in road infrastructure is to remove fine particulate matter “precursors” that are generated by car exhaust gases. Researchers reportedly determined that construction materials utilizing photocatalysts are one solution to this particulate matter pollution.

A photocatalyst is a semiconducting material that breaks down pollutants when reacting to light. The reaction, known as a photocatalytic reaction, produces a reactive oxygen species (ROS) that reportedly has a strong oxidizing power.

This ROS can convert the precursor of fine particulate matter (nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, etc.) into “harmless substances” and can lead to the suppression of "fine particulate matter generation."

In May, the research group reportedly completed a trial application of the concrete on the inner walls of the Banpo Underground Road Tunnel in Seoul, Korea. The team states that the trial’s aim was to “verify the effectiveness” of research findings in actual use.

Artificial light sources were then installed on the wall of the underground road tunnel where the new concrete was applied, allowing the photocatalytic function to work without direct sunlight.

According to the outcomes, the use of this new concrete resulted in an approximate 18% reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) concentration levels over a 24-hour period. Additionally, the results reportedly showed that the products of photocatalytic degradation were “effectively washed away by rain,” and converted into salts because of the calcium content in the concrete.

The GCP Research Group is currently working on conducting a comprehensive trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of photocatalytic construction technologies. The trial will reportedly be done in collaboration with Gyeonggi-do Province.

"Construction technology using photocatalysts can have an immediate effect on reducing fine particulate matter in the nation’s living environment” said Dr. Jong-Won, Kwark, head researcher of the research. “We plan to build a system of cooperation with local governments and public corporations to expand trial demonstrations to other sites to achieve commercialization and distribution with practical effects.”

The GCP Research Group also states that they are working to establish various photocatalytic performance evaluation certification systems. The team hopes to facilitate the commercialization and distribution of this new technology.

Other Environmentally Friendly Concrete Research

In April, researchers from Washington State University reportedly developed an environmentally friendly concrete that is nearly as strong as regular concrete using biochar and concrete wastewater. According to the university’s release, the biochar was also able to suck up to 23% of its weight in carbon dioxide from the air.

While researchers have previously tried adding biochar as a substitute in cement, adding even 3% of biochar dramatically reduced the strength of the concrete. However, WSU researchers treated biochar in the concrete washout wastewater, allowing them to add up to 30% biochar to their cement mixture.

The paste made of the biochar-amended cement was reportedly able to reach a compressive strength after 28 days comparable to that of ordinary cement of about 4,000 pounds per square inch.

According to WSU, the synergy between the highly alkaline wastewater that contains a lot of calcium and the highly porous biochar meant that calcium carbonate precipitated onto or into the biochar, strengthening it and allowing for the capture of carbon dioxide from the air.

Researchers say that the concrete made of the material would be expected to continue sequestering carbon dioxide for the lifetime of the concrete, typically 30 years in pavement or 75 years in a bridge. 

The researchers have been working with the Office of Commercialization to commercialize the technology and protect the intellectual property, and have filed a provisional patent application. They also reportedly received a seed grant from the Washington Research Foundation to produce more data for a variety of use cases.

The university reports they are actively seeking industry partners from the building and construction sector to scale up production for field demonstrations and licensing this WSU technology.

   

Tagged categories: Air pollution control; Air quality; Asia Pacific; Building materials; Colleges and Universities; concrete; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Green Infrastructure; Health & Safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Ongoing projects; Photocatalytic coatings; Research; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Technology; Tunnel; Z-Continents

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