Smog-eating graphene coating developed

A consortium of industry and research institutions have developed a graphene-titania photocatalyst, which can reduce atmospheric pollution.

Under the Graphene Flagship banner, the group, which is an initiative of the European Union and utilises a budget of 1 billion Euros, have created a material which degrades 70 per cent more nitrogen oxides from the atmosphere, when tested on real pollutants.

How the process works is titania, when exposed to sunlight, oxidises nitrogen and other volatile organic compounds at the surface of the material into inert or harmless products.

The product announced by the Graphene Flagship is a coating that could be used on concrete, or building walls. Once oxidised, the product can be washed off or manually removed.

The introduction of graphene will increase the effectiveness of titania’s photocatalytic function, according to Marco Goisis, research coordinator at Italcementi, an Italian building products manufacturer.

Photocatalysis is one of the most powerful ways we have to depollute the environment, because the process does not consume the photocatalysts. It is a reaction activated by solar light,” he said.

The material would remove pollutants such as those emitted by vehicles, industry, and agriculture from the air.

“Coupling graphene to titania gave us excellent results in powder form – and it could be applied to different materials, of which concrete is a good example for the widespread use, helping us to achieve a healthier environment,” said Goisis.

The only issue holding back the widespread adoption of the product is the cost of producing graphene.