Pavement which has undergone special chemical treatment can deliver significant reductions in air pollution levels, a year-long study in the Netherlands has concluded.

Conducted over a 12-month period in Hengelo in the east of the Netherlands by Eindhoven University of Technology, the research involved monitoring air pollution levels on two adjacent streets.

While the ‘control street’ was equipped with standard paving blocks over a distance of approximately 100 metres, a 150-metre stretch on the other was lined with blocks treated with titanium oxide, giving them photocatalytic properties which allowed them to react with the chemicals in the surrounding air upon exposure to sunlight. The proximity of the streets meaning they were exposed to similar climate conditions over the during of the study period.

The findings were startling.  Under ideal weather conditions, the smog-eating pavement was capable of reducing nitrogen oxide by up to 45 per cent, and by almost a fifth throughout the course of a full day’s shifting light levels.

Furthermore, the solution is easily applied as it can be simply sprayed onto exposed surfaces of finished materials.

The study’s findings have been published in the Journal of Hazardous materials, its authors saying smog-eating pavement could play a pivotal role in reducing pollution in major urban centres such as Beijing.

“[The treated pavement] could be a very feasible solution for inner city areas where they have a problem with air pollution,” said Professor Jos Brouwers from the Department of Architecture, Building and Planning at Eindhoven.

 Institute of Chemical Engineers chief executive David Brown said the research underscores the potential of chemically engineered surfaces to improve quality of life, and that recent weeks in Singapore demonstrate the challenges problems associated with smog can cause.

“Further studies of this nature are needed to assess and improve the potential of other photocatalytic materials and in different environments,” he said. “However, the potential is there and gives a strong indication of how streets may be designed in the future.”