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A Concrete Solution to Pollution
November 10, 2006 8:15 AM   Subscribe

A Concrete Solution to Pollution With concerns over global warming and pollution control reaching an all-time high, an Italian company has developed an interesting solution. It is called TX Active: a concrete that literally breaks down pollutants in the air. The effects are significant: 'In large cities with persistent pollution problems caused by car emissions, smoke from heating systems, and industrial activities, both the company and outside experts estimate that covering 15% of all visible urban surfaces (painting the walls, repaving the roads) with products containing TX Active could abate pollution by up to 50%.' Even more significant is that the cost is only 30% over that of normal concrete. Remarkable.
posted by PreacherTom (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nifty. Thanks, PreacherTom.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2006


I've always thought the first change to current paving standards should be of the porous variety. Runoff - a major problem - would be alleviated as well as some of the problems associated with heat retention.

Maybe some enterprising engineer can merge these two to create a porous, air-scrubbing pavement to save us all?
posted by NationalKato at 8:35 AM on November 10, 2006


So all we have to do is to tear down every city in the western world and rebuild them all from scratch using this new material, and our problems will be solved.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2006


Only thirty percent? If I told you your budget was going to take a 30% hit this year you probably wouldn't be too happy. It sounds like a great solution, however it doesn't sound as cheap as you're making it out to be.
posted by spicynuts at 8:55 AM on November 10, 2006


No steven, we just need to PAINT the cities.

Which is fine, because they've all been looking a little drab lately, what with the less-than-a-mile visibility.
posted by hermitosis at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2006



So all we have to do is to tear down every city in the western world and rebuild them all from scratch using this new material, and our problems will be solved.


Read the article, it's a coating. I imagine that porous pavers, having more surface area (but costing more $$$ already, without the coating), would have more pollution-sucking power?

information about the (non)carcinogenic properties of Titanium DiOxide here. I think Titanium Peroxide is the bad one, right? I think they are both white pigments.

I also liked the articles mention of the fact that this will prevent the buildings from losing their gloss from PM.
posted by eustatic at 9:14 AM on November 10, 2006


cement containing an active agent that, in presence of light, breaks air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, benzene, and others through a natural chemical process called photocatalysis.

Just to clarify, none of these is a signficant greenhouse gas. Air pollution is a coincident phenomenon with climate change, but they aren't the same problem. This'd have lots of potential in reducing toxic smog in cities, which is great and all, but it sounds like it's largely irrelevant to climate change.
posted by gompa at 9:16 AM on November 10, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste : So all we have to do is to tear down every city in the western world and rebuild them all from scratch using this new material, and our problems will be solved.

Or we could, you know, just make sure all future projects use this new material. And whenever we perform upkeep like repaving roads, use it as well.

Concrete is not forever. It does require upkeep.
posted by quin at 9:17 AM on November 10, 2006


Okay, but what gets emitted during the mining, refining and manufacturing of the "titanium dioxide blend"?

In detail:

To what extent would ore mining have to ramp up in places like Australia, Malaysia and Kenya to meet increased demand, and would this be a) feasible, and b) achievable in an environmentally sound manner?

What are the greenhouse consequences of current titanium mining and refining practices?

What is the manufacturing process for this titanium dioxide "blend," and what are its byproducts?

What as yet unmeasured consequences and products-over-time are there to this paint/additive's widespread usage outside the lab? What does it do when it breaks down? How does it affect human/animal health? What happens when it gets into our waterways and groundwater?

We should always be sceptical of chemo-utopian solutions to macro-scale environmental problems.
posted by kowalski at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2006


I would point out that the manufacture of cement is itself a significant source of CO2 emissions. That, and echo gompa's point that pollution and global warming aren't the same thing. These photocatalyzers seem to help with urban pollution, which is groovy, but they break the nasties down into -- that's right -- CO2. There's always a tradeoff.
posted by nickmark at 9:28 AM on November 10, 2006


These photocatalyzers seem to help with urban pollution, which is groovy, but they break the nasties down into -- that's right -- CO2. There's always a tradeoff.

Yes, but they don't make /more/ of the CO2, they simply SPEED UP the natural process that would occur anyway and so the total CO2 released is the SAME -- that's what catalyzers do. No trade-off there. In fact, by speeding it up, you may do a better job of keeping the CO2 at ground level which would allow plant life more access to it.
posted by incongruity at 9:38 AM on November 10, 2006


[Aside: Your slashdot post, verbatim. Remarkable.

Not sure this is a terrible thing (and certainly not worth a MeTa callout, though I'm sure many would jump on the opportunity) but it seems a little off.]
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:40 AM on November 10, 2006


George_Spiggott: That's what Meta is for.
posted by zhivota at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2006


I've always thought the first change to current paving standards should be of the porous variety.

A colleague of mine in Environmental Studies says that the problem with using porous pavement for things like roads is that there needs to be a gravel bed underneath to make the drainage work properly, and that interferes with the load-bearing capability of roads. So porous pavement can work really well for things like parking lots, but it's trickier for roads.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:29 AM on November 10, 2006


I've always thought the first change to current paving standards should be of the porous variety.

Porous paved roads would probably get destroyed in one winter in areas where the temperatures drop below freezing.
posted by rachelpapers at 10:57 AM on November 10, 2006


From the BW article: "Venice hardly counts among the most-polluted places in the world. There are no cars traveling its narrow streets, and all traffic is either by foot or by boat. So despite the crowded walkways and canals, the air in Venice is far cleaner than that of, say, Milan, Italy's economic capital, which recent figures indicate has some of the worst air quality in Europe."

What's with the twisted reasoning in the lede? Since when crowded walkways and canals started being more polluted than cities smogged with exhaust of gas-powered vehicles?

I think despite the excellent patent-pending technology, it's still a much better solution than what we have now.
posted by forwebsites at 11:02 AM on November 10, 2006


Vegetation is also a remarkable pollution-absorbing material, and it costs nothing. This expensive concrete is a gee-whiz Popular Mechanics solution when what we need to do is drive less, build fewer roads and above-ground parking lots, and let more green grow tall and thick, not just in low, uniform lawns.
posted by pracowity at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2006


And since this is a bit of a dud post, I don't feel too bad derailing it a bit to point out that I originally read the name of the author of the linked article as Bruno Gerussi. Which'd make for a better article - I bet Nick and Relic have some great ideas for carbon sequestration!

Bring Back Beachcombers!

*waves placard, chants*
posted by gompa at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2006


What's with the twisted reasoning in the lede? Since when crowded walkways and canals started being more polluted than cities smogged with exhaust of gas-powered vehicles?

I wonder if he really just wanted to say that Venice is cleaner despite the crowds. The idea seems to be that dense cities tend to be more polluted, but that Venice is both dense and clean.

"Walkways and canals" looks like a misguided attempt at local color, nothing more.

This expensive concrete is a gee-whiz Popular Mechanics solution when what we need to do is drive less, build fewer roads and above-ground parking lots, and let more green grow tall and thick, not just in low, uniform lawns.

Agreed. Although for those of us who get a kick out of gee-whiz solutions, there's some cute ones there, too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2006


While I tend to agree with you pracowity, there is always going to be a certain amount of concrete, and it's going to be clustered in and around cities.

Another thing to remember, urban areas are much more resource efficient that rural areas on a per capita basis. Disolution of those cities to creat green space might actually be counter productive in a sense.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:47 PM on November 10, 2006


there's some cute ones there, too.

Yes, roof gardens are good. All new buildings should be required to be at least 75 percent green from the top. As for vertical gardens, people should at least grow vines where possible.

But also, just let things grow where you can. All highway medians, for example, should be overgrown, not mowed -- make up for the two swaths of asphalt by growing an untended forest in between (when the median is wide enough, of course), fencing it, and digging tunnels underneath to allow animals to move from left to median to right. And it would be great for birds.

urban areas are much more resource efficient that rural areas on a per capita basis.

I agree. Suburbs are bad. Cities are good. But you can make cities greener. For example, send all new parking underground. Don't let people leave their stinking machines on the streets when they aren't driving them. Require all new commercial buildings to be 75 percent garden on the roofs. Penalize local polluting industries and technologies and give the penalty fees to clean industries and technologies – for example, make local regular gas stations subsidize local stations providing cleaner fuels. Make local car dealers selling high-polluting cars subsidize local dealers selling low-polluting cars. Create bike and bus lanes at the expense of streetside parking. Make driving a car in the city very expensive and inconvenient, but add two-tiered bus/tram/train service to wean wary people from their cars – two prices, two levels of comfort, like business and economy class in airplanes, so people can pay a little more to ride public transport without having to sit next to commoners like me. (And use the higher fares to subsidize the lower fares, so poor folk get a break.)
posted by pracowity at 11:18 PM on November 10, 2006


nebulawindphone, thanks for the links. The Wikipedia Green Walls one is interesting, and it takes you to Patrick Blanc's site, the guy who built (grew) the walls at the musée du quai Branly. Great idea, but I'm wondering if he's going to be remembered more for his contribution to outlandish copyright claims:

"The Vegetal Wall is protected in particular by copyright. Any reproduction, representation, or exploitation of the Vegetal Wall or the image of the Vegetal Wall that is not strictly private and no commercial or promotional will require the preliminary and and written authorization of Patrick Blanc."

Is it ok to sneer in his general direction?

Oh yeah, bring back The Beachcombers!
posted by sneebler at 8:22 AM on November 11, 2006


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