China's Environmental Push: Pollution-Absorbing Parking Lots and other Nanotechnology Innovations

scooter parking lot in shanghai

Image courtesy of meckleychina via flickr

In preparation for the upcoming Beijing Olympics - its unofficial coming out party to the world (and its chance to prove its eco-progressive, technological chops) - China has announced its intention to invest heavily in nanotechnology. At least that was the message conveyed to Richard Applebaum and Rachel Parker of UCBS's Center for Nanotechnology in Society, who conducted 60 interviews with Chinese officials about the state of nanotechnology.

Reporting from the AAAS meeting, Wired Science's Alexis Madrigal noted that Chinese scientists plan on "leapfrogging" the U.S. and EU countries through technology transfer and by upping domestic research capacity, or "indigenous innovation" (what they call zizhu chuangxin).Not much was revealed outside of the few international partnerships China mentioned - with the Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center and the Zheijang-California Nanosystems Institute; the country spent about $400 million on nanotechnology research from 2002 to 2007, a figure that is expected to drastically rise over the coming years.

One prevalent nanotechnology application the scientists highlighted - which Tim wrote about a few years ago - was the use of a nanopolymer coating in parking lots to absorb exhaust. Madrigal compared the technology to the one used by V-REMS (Virginia's Regional Environmental Management System), which is described in the following terms:

- Photocatalytic TiO2 cement building materials and coverings may absorb and eliminate from 20% to 80% of air pollutants.
- TiO2 is commonly used to cover surfaces that are difficult to clean by hand. The TiO2 covering functions as a self cleaning chemical to keep the surface free of accumulating air pollution.

Or, as Tim put it earlier:

"This particular multi-functional material is created by applying a titanium dioxide coating on concrete. The reaction with Titanium Dioxide works through adding sunlight. Titanium dioxide has the ability to absorb UV light (why it is used in sun-block lotions); this capture of UV radiation then enables a catalytic reaction to take place which destroys common pollutants from vehicle emissions that happen to touch the surface of the titanium dioxide."

It sure sounds as though we could use this technology stateside (ahem, Los Angeles).

Via ::PSFK: Pollution Absorbing Parking Lots at the Olympics & China’s Plans for Nanotechnology (blog)

See also: ::It Slices, It Dices: Pollution Eating Concrete, ::China Launches Crackdown on Plastic Bags

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