Curved roadside barrier design reduces people’s exposure to poor air quality

Air pollution is becoming an increasingly dangerous global health challenge. According to World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year.

To mitigate this problem, researchers at the Imperial London College have designed a unique curved roadside barrier, which can protect people from the damaging effects of air pollution. Researchers used airflow modeling techniques to study the effects of unique roadside structures to deflect particulates away from pedestrians.

Dr. Tilly Collins, from Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy, found this issue particularly worrying, especially after noticing the severe pollution in the air while watching her child playing netball in a school playground near a busy London road.

I thought to myself, what could be done? And done now? So, I started researching the effect of walls along roads,” Dr. Collins said. “It became evident that along the pedestrian side of these roadside walls, there are vortices where the air quality can actually be even worse as the pollutants get trapped in them.

Dr. Collins, along with Dr. Huw Woodward, also from the Centre for Environmental Policy, and Agamemnon Otero of Energy Garden, explored ideas of urban design that would mitigate these vortex effects and improve air quality for pedestrians and especially children.

The curved roadside barriers are inspired by airfield baffles and the curved sound-walls alongside motorways in Germany and the Netherlands. The team found that the structures would more effectively disperse and reflect pollutants back towards the roads. These structures would very rapidly and inexpensively improve air quality for pedestrians, according to the team.

In addition, the curved baffling barriers would also mitigate noise pollution and would be able to act as scaffolds to increase green infrastructure throughout large cities. Despite various challenges in implementing the structures, the researchers are confident that the net gain in air quality and health is immediate and significant enough to explore these ideas further.

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