Road surfaces can make a big contribution to local air purity. This conclusion can be drawn from the first test results on a road surface of air-purifying concrete, which reduces the concentration of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 25 to 45 percent.

The tests were carried out in the municipality of Hengelo in the Netherlands, where the busy Castorweg road was resurfaced last fall. As part of the project, around 1,000 square meters of the road’s surface were covered with air-purifying concrete paving stones. For comparison purposes, another area of 1,000 square meters was surfaced with normal paving stones.

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands carried out three air-purity measurements on the Castorweg last spring, at heights of between a half and one-and-a-half meters. Over the area paved with air-purifying concrete the NOx content was found to 25 to 45 per cent lower than that over the area paved with normal concrete.

“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,” said Jos Brouwers, professor of building materials in the TU/e Department of Architecture, Building and Planning. Further measurements are planned later this year.

Brouwers sees numerous potential applications, especially at locations where the maximum permitted NOx concentrations are now exceeded. The concrete stones used in the tests are made by paving stone manufacturer Struyk Verwo Infra, and are already available for use. For roads where an asphalt surface is preferred, the air-purifying concrete can be mixed with open asphalt. It can also be used in self-cleaning and air-purifying building walls.

Vehicle exhaust gases contain nitrogen oxides (NOx), which cause acid rain and smog. The air purifying concrete contains titanium dioxide, a photocatalytic material that removes the nitrogen oxides from the air and converts them with the aid of sunlight into harmless nitrate. The nitrate is then rinsed away by rain. These stones also break down algae and dirt, so that they always stay clean.

(Eindhoven University of Technology)