Smart cities
Smart cities

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Smart cities

2.1 NOx-eating paint and air-quality sensors

Air in London could soon be cleaned with the help of an innovative NOx-eating paint and new air-quality sensors.

In what they believe to be the first experiment of its kind in an external environment, Sensing Cities partners ICRI, King’s College and the Future Cities Catapult, aided by the London Air Quality Network, are working together to test whether surfaces across the city could help to clean London’s air.

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My name's David Green. I'm from King's College, London. I work in the measurement scene and the environmental research group. We run the London air quality network, which is a network of high quality reference sensors distributed around London. This is now one of the sites in the London air quality network. This is Southwark 7. And we're providing reference measurements for the photocatalytic paint trial.
All the surfaces here are going to be painted with a photocatalytic paint. What that does is it basically eats NO and NO2. It eats noxes, and it scrubs the environment and makes it cleaner. So we want to actually measure that in a quantifiable way and see how much of an impact it has.
This is the first experiment on this scale in an external environment. If we find that the product is effective, then there's huge potential for it to be integrated into developments all across London. Pathways that you walk down and the tiles on your roof - they could all be working to clean up the air in London.
Air Pollution is a problem that has no real owner. So our role here really bringing some people together to do some common thinking, not only for now but also how we want our cities in the future to be.
Nitrogen dioxide's a problem throughout London. We've had an increased number of Diesel vehicles in the fleet in London. And this combined with change in technology mean they produce a lot more nitrogen dioxide direct from their exhaust than they ever used to.
When London had its power stations up and running, you could see the plumes of yellow sulphurous pollution. You can't see nitrogen oxides.
So this project really addresses the future of sensing technologies. Because we're creating a platform that encourages people not only to innovate with sensing technologies themselves but also to innovate with the data that comes out of them, making these sensors as part of the city and helping people communicate and use the data in the best way that they can.
So these represent what they actually are should they give a visual indicator of what they are and then also should they give visual feedback of what they're currently measuring. The feedback I generally got from the engineers was, we should design these so that they're small, cheap, and ubiquitous as possible. If you talk to design-oriented into people, they'll say, people are going to be naturally curious to what these are. So this should represent what they do.
Within the span of a year, we managed to deploy something like 100 sensing boxes across different sites in London. So it provides us with a seat laboratory in the city in situ. It then connects back to our city's lab. And then we start to get that connection between the fabric of the city and what the data is telling us, which is a great start for us.
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