Wiegandt / Reporters

Revolutionary coating to tackle air pollution in Antwerp

Antwerp University is launching a new experiment aimed at reducing air pollution in the northern port city.  Scientists are eager to combine two techniques: the construction of buildings in such a way that the wind blows pollution off them and a special paint for building fronts that turns pollution into harmless substances.

Antwerp University is targeting two streets known as street canyons: the Turnhoutsebaan and the Plantin en Moretuslei.  The streets are narrow and the buildings high trapping pollution.

Prof Pieter Billen (chemistry and biochemistry) wants to see if anything can be done to the design of the streets: at present there is little air flow.  Maybe lower buildings and more open spaces can improve this.  The scientists are also employing a paint or coating that can remove pollution from the air.  It's done using photokatalysts, small particles in the paint that under the influence of light break down toxic substances in the air.  The paint only works well when there is a good air flow.

Is there an option to coat all buildings in Antwerp with this new paint? "Unfortunately the paint is expensive and its production weighs on the environment.  It can only be used for heavily polluted sites" says Prof Pieter Billen.