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Case study

The need for pavements is ubiquitous. As our population increases, more roads are needed to get people and goods from place to place. Unfortunately, with this added traffic comes a higher concentration of air pollution. To reduce our current and future levels of air pollution, more attention is being given to the use of photocatalytic concrete in pavements.

The internal combustion engine is used everywhere in the United States, from cars to trains to jets. These engines produce the power required to travel, but also emit pollution. The primary pollution from fossil fuel combustion is carbon dioxide (CO2), but other gasses are formed, such as nitric oxide (NOx) and sulfur oxide (Sox) that can lead to acid rain, smog, and respiratory issues.

According to EPA reports, 34 percent of the national NOx emissions come from vehicles on roads. 

Photocatalytic concrete contains titanium dioxide particles that act as the catalyst for the natural breakdown of NOx into nitrates in sunlight. This occurs at the surface of the concrete, where the nitrates can be easily washed away. Without the catalyst, the NOx will breakdown in the atmosphere, creating photochemical smog and ground level ozone. With an abundant surface area and proximity to a major source of air pollution, the use of photocatalytic concrete for pavements is a logical concept.
 
 A study conducted in the Netherlands used photocatalytic concrete pavers on a section of a busy roadway and monitored the air quality 19.5 to 58.5 inches above the pavement in both a control area with normal pavers and the test section. It was found that the NOx levels were reduced by 25 to 45 percent.

Ultimately, the photocatalytic concrete will be tested on a roadway. The current concept for the design is a two-lift pavement, with the photocatalytic portion being a two-inch bonded overlay on top of an eight-inch non-photocatalytic concrete base. The air quality and, possibly, the run-off water quality will be monitored. The ultimate goal is to assess the effectiveness of photocatalytic concrete for use in pavements, barrier walls, sound walls, or other pavement-related structures.



 

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