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Mobile unit to measure emissions of nanoparticles from construction materials

Adding functional nanoparticles to materials is a way of incorporating new properties to improve conventional materials. But erosion over the years can make the material to release some of these nanoparticles into the air, which can be a health hazard. CSIC scientists have developed a method for monitoring construction materials and the nanoparticles released from them.

The device can simulate the environmental conditions that a building material suffers, such as erosion and abrasion by car tires.Incorporation of nanoparticles allows to provide new properties which improve conventional materials. Some examples are coatings or paintings with hydrophobic nanoparticles to make them waterproof; or nanoparticles made of graphene, silica fume or carbon nanotubes for obtaining a very tough concrete.

Also, nanoparticles of photocatalytic materials, which chemically react when they are exposed to light, can be incorporated into paintings or building glass coatings. Another example are photocatalytic titanium nanoparticles that can be applied to urban concrete pavement to eliminate air pollutants through oxidation, when the concrete receives sunlight.

However, these materials are subjected to friction, abrasion and wear during operation, therefore the nanoparticles can be released and emitted into the air. Breathing for a long time these nanoparticles could be a risk for human and animal health; that’s why regulations  have been set to limit their concentration in the air. 

Currently there is no technique for monitoring the emission of particles from nanofuncionalized construction materials into the air. Scientists at the Institute Eduardo Torroja of the CSIC, in Madrid, have developed a device to assess the emission of micro and nanoparticles (with diameter sized between 10 nanometers and one micrometer) from building materials.

The device enables estimation of friction coefficient and wear resistance in the lab, in the plant where the material is manufactured or where the material has been applied

The device can simulate the environmental conditions that a building material suffers, such as erosion and abrasion by car tires, cleaning utensils, stepping and water jets, among others. Also, the device enables estimation of friction coefficient and wear resistance virtually in any place: either in the lab, in the plant where the material is manufactured or where the construction material has been applied (such as concrete on the road).

Now, the scientists are finishing the assembly of the mobile unit and will begin experimental tests in the city of Madrid. The size of the device is similar to other mobile systems on wheels, such as the workstations for monitoring air pollution.

At the moment, says Roman Nevshupa, a CSIC scientists responsible for the development, “the system has been designed to test flat materials which are horizontally placed, like concrete on roads or floor tiles, and which are also exposed to more damage than others”.  But the design, he adds, “could be easily adapted to assess vertically-placed materials (walls, boards…).
 
The device has been developed in the frame of the European Project LIFE+ PHOTOSCALING, which is coordinated by the CSIC scientist Marta Castellote. The Project is aimed at researching the scalability of photocatalytic technologies to reduce pollution in urban air.

In the streets of Madrid, for example, assays of photocatalytic materials are in progress. As Roman Nevshupa concludes, “now we have a powerful tool to assess the emission levels of nanoparticles from the building materials over the years, and to find out whether they accomplish with health regulations or not”.

Contact:

Marisa Carrascoso Arranz
Área de Ciencias de Materiales
Vicepresidencia Adjunta
de Transferencia del Conocimiento (CSIC)
Tel.: + 34 – 91 568 15 33
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.