Smart design idea can help to improve air quality alongside roads.

Cleaner air may be coming to a roadside near you thanks to a simple but effective barrier solution. The invention of scientists at the Imperial College in the UK, a simple curve roadside barrier deflects vehicle tailpipe emissions back to the road.

The idea came after researching how emissions are worse where there are trapped vortices in traffic areas – spots where chaotic swirling air gets stuck – and so a deliberately designed barricade could work in a positive way to trap those emissions in places away from walkways and parks.

“I thought to myself, what could be done? And done now? So, I started researching the effect of walls along roads,” says Tilly Collins, from the Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy.

“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.”

Urban design investigations started to find ways to reduce the vortex effects and improve air quality, 

“Inspired by airfield baffles and the curved sound-walls alongside motorways in Germany and the Netherlands, the researchers found that curved structures would more effectively disperse and reflect pollutants back towards the roads and would very rapidly improve air quality for pedestrians in an inexpensive manner,” says the Imperial College.

There are two types of design for the baffles. A low-level barrier looks similar to roadside Armco with a larger concave face that faces traffic and is easily deployed along with high traffic areas in urban areas. A high-level system is mounted on walls and requires more planning with urban design.

With electric vehicles and hybrids increasing in sales such a system in conjunction with reduced emissions could help to quickly clean up roads and air, though for now, it remains in the trial period, with crashworthiness and complete environmental studies to be completed.


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