A special ingredient helps this Cincinnati road suck in pollution
Cincinnati is beginning to see the pollution-reducing effects of a common mineral that has long been used in Europe, Asia and Central America.
On a single stretch of Montgomery Road between Cypress Way and Coleridge Avenue in Pleasant Ridge, the city of Cincinnati has invested (with the help of an OKI grant) in a titanium dioxide coating designed to suck in car emissions.
Recent tests at Texas A&M prove the product is doing what it promises to do — remove 30% to 45% of the bad air.
Pavement Technology’s David Helm met WVXU in Pleasant Ridge to explain what makes the road surface special, and how it works.
The photocatalytic pavements for air pollution reduction, or “smog-eating pavement,” as Helm calls it, can be compared to photosynthesis. “The sunlight, in contact with the titanium dioxide, creates an energy field in the pavement which creates these oxides, radicals that break down pollution, VOCs,” he explains.
The titanium dioxide is added to Pavement Technology’s regular roadway sealer. “It looks like face powder,” says Helm. “Maybe even finer. If you throw it up in the air, the wind would just blow it away.”
It’s not cheap. The titanium doubles the cost of the sealer to $2.50 a square yard. This doesn’t include the cost of resurfacing the road.
The road doesn’t look any different
Even people who live in Pleasant Ridge had no idea Montgomery Road was sucking in tailpipe emissions.
Helm explains titanium dioxide is not new and his company didn't invent its use in pollution control. It's used in paints and concrete, both at the street level and on buildings all over the world to decompose environmental pollutants. Recently it was used on a hospital in Milan, Italy.
Chris Ertel is Cincinnati's Department of Transportation Principal Engineer. “So, now we’re kind of in a wait-and-see stage. We’ve got one report done (on Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge) and we could do another one to see how it degrades over time.”
Why Pleasant Ridge and why Montgomery Road? Ertle explains that’s because this new additive — TI02 Plus — is so expensive Cincinnati has to wait for a pollution-related grant and also determine what roads are next in line to be resurfaced.
“We’ve got one recently that’s just been offered, and construction won’t happen until 2026," Ertel says. "It’ll be Victory Parkway and Park Avenue in Mt. Adams and East Walnut Hills.”