Smog Eating Sidewalks And Concrete Recycling Robots? Awesome!

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With global warming on the rise, innovative solutions to combat pollution are becoming increasingly important. While there are many that are unveiled each week, only a few have the capability of tackling the issues on a scale large enough to make a real difference. Here are two ingenious ones that definitely make the cut.

Smog Eating Pavements

The increasing number of cars hitting the roadways are resulting in more toxic gases being added to our already polluted environment each day. It is therefore no wonder that recent news of a successful study of a 'smog' eating pavement by scientists from Netherlands' Eindhoven University of Technology, is generating so much excitement.

The 1000-sq.meter (10,763 sq.feet) section of re-paved road in a residential area of Netherlands was able to absorb an average of 20% of the smog on any given day and as much as 45%, under ideal weather conditions.

The secret behind this magical pavement is Titanium Dioxide (TIO2) that reacts with the toxic nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere and converts it into harmless nitrates that simply wash away in the rain. Because it is a photocatalytic chemical, TIO2 is more efficient on days when the sun is shining. While this in itself is amazing, what is even more so, is that the reaction also helps decompose dirt or grime off the surface of the cement or any other material it is embedded in, which means that the pavement manages to keep itself clean!

In fact, the cement was first conceived by Italy's Italcementi in 2003 for Richard Meier, an architect who was looking for special material to construct the Jubilee Church in Vatican City - One that could be shielded from Rome's heavily polluted air. Therefore, the discovery that the building was also helping clean the air around it came as a pleasant surprise.

Since then, a few European countries have re-paved small portions of their pavements using this magical cement. Last year, Chicago became the first US city to use it on a two-mile stretch of bike trails that lies close to a freeway, heavily frequented by commercial trucks. Hopefully, now that this study has provided some tangible numbers, the cement will become more prevalent in roadways and sidewalks all over the world!

Real Life WALL-E?

If that is not impressing enough, how about a real-life WALL-E that demolishes buildings without generating massive amounts of dust and debris and then efficiently separates out the components and even, recycles the water that it uses to bring the structure down! Called the ERO Concrete Recycling Robot the ingenious creation is the brainchild of Omer Haciomerglu, a student from Sweden's Umea Institute of Design.

The transformer-like smart robot begins by scanning the building to figure out the best course of demolition. Then, using a high-pressure water jet it slowly but surely, breaks down the concrete, one wall at a time and then immediately sucks it up, separating out the cement from the aggregate (the sand gravel etc. used to add reinforcement), and water. The former two are bagged for reuse at other construction sites, while the water is recycled and goes back into its system to break down more walls - In short, the design ensures that nothing ever goes to landfill. What's even more amazing is that thanks to the attached turbulence dynamos, ERO would even be able to produce the bulk of the power it needs, to carry out the demolition job.

Though ERO is a great idea, it is still just an early concept, which means that there is a long way to go before we see armies of this smart robot demolishing buildings. However, if it ever does become a reality, it will make a huge difference to the inefficient system that is in place today, whereby the buildings are demolished by heavy energy consuming, manually operated, machinery. The debris is then taken to recycling stations where it is separated manually. Only then, can the concrete be crushed. The worst part? The resulting concrete can only be used for simple construction layouts - ERO or should we say WALL-E, just sounds so much better, doesn't it?


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