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When the Milan Expo opens next year, the centerpiece building will be a masterpiece of sustainable engineering. Designed around the idea of an urban forest, the new Palazzo Italia will generate its own electricity, and will be clad in materials specifically designed to clean the surrounding air. The designers, Nemesi & Partners, are using photocatalytic cement - basically, concrete that's been mixed with titanium oxide. When the building material comes into contact with ultraviolet light, the titanium oxide reacts with nitrogen dioxide in the air, converting the pollutant to a salt that can easily be washed away. The building will open in time for the Expo's launch next May, and we're already planning to book a trip over so that we can spend a day sniffing the air next to the building.
Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (EUT) may be on the brink of discovering a breakthrough that will lead to reduced pollution and cleaner air for all. According to the EUT, a roadway made of concrete blended with titanium dioxide can effectively remove up to 45 percent of the nitrogen oxides that it comes in contact with. The titanium dioxide, a photocatalytic material, captures airborne nitrogen oxides and, with the aid of the sun, converts it to nitrates that are harmlessly washed away by the rain. The EUT conducted real-world studies on a 1,000-square-meter section of repaved road in the Netherlands. Such testing showed that the laced pavement could reduce nitrogen oxides by 25 to 45 percent more than traditional concrete. As Jos Brouwers, professor of building materials at the EUT remarked, "The air-purifying properties of the new paving stones had already been shown in the laboratory, but these results now show that they also work outdoors." Additional testing is still underway and although the pavement laced with titanium dioxide does cost some 50 percent more than regular cement, overall road-building costs only increase by a marginal 10 percent. Costs aside, the advantages of the titanium dioxide are readily apparent, but the implementation of such a product requires repaving our roadways – a time intensive and costly endeavor. [source: Eindhoven University of Technology] http://w3.tue.nl/en/news/news_article/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=9833&tx_ttnews[backPid]=361&cHash=d58ad9cc61