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Concrete and Nitrogen Mix Could Help Reduce Pollution

Concrete and Nitrogen Mix Could Help Reduce Pollution
01 July 2024

Adding nitrogen to concrete could help the construction industry on its journey to decarbonisation.

The concrete sector currently generates 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions, which is more than aviation and shipping combined. According to a new study, adding nitrogen to concrete could significantly reduce global levels of potentially harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) created by the construction industry.

Researchers believe that concrete nitrogenation could contribute to a reduction in NOx emissions by 3.4-6.9 megatonnes (Mt) – representing between 6 and 13 per cent of industry-related emissions in 2021. By 2050 the process could reduce NOx by a total of 131-384 Mt. It could represent the equivalent to 75-260 years potentially lost to premature death and reduced quality of life, estimated in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALY).  

The researchers stated that China, Europe, and the United States are key players with the greatest capacity to contribute in this area. They also recommend setting up an emissions trading system like the one already created for CO2, creating a standardised quantification of NOx reduction.

Co-author Dr Yuli Shan, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Cities around the world, particularly those in the global south, are experiencing extensive urban renewal, expansion, and modernisation – all inevitably creating atmospheric pollution. 

“Between 1970 and 2018, global NOx emissions nearly doubled from 70 Mt to 120 Mt. Addressing and managing these emissions is crucial for enhancing urban health, fostering sustainable industrial growth, and ensuring environmental wellbeing.” 

The first author, Ms. Ning Zhang from the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban & Regional Development added “There is significant potential for concrete in capturing NOx. Applying this technology holds promise for rapidly urbanising and emerging industrial regions, as it can generate substantial economic value and curtail industrial NOx pollution in these areas. 

“The proposed nitrogenated concrete material presents a promising integrated solution for mitigating air pollution and managing construction waste in industrialised regions.” 

Picture: a photograph of a concrete wall, with some green plants seen at the bottom of the image. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 01 July 2024


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