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Paint: A Possible Solution to Smog

Imagine if the paint on buildings were meant for something more than aesthetics … that the thick coating along the sides of certain infrastructure and homes has a special purpose for the environment. Recent research shows that there very well may be a type of paint to help the atmosphere. This paint contains titanium dioxides, which help break down the harmful components of smog and, thereby enabling it to have less of an effect on the environment.

Smog is a type of air pollution comprising smoke and fog. It is mainly found around cities and can cause significant damage to the environment. Photochemical smog is a type of smog that has been exposed to sunlight. This kind is prevalent in urban areas and contains nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds–both of which have the potential to harm humans, animals, and plants.

Recently, researchers discovered a type of paint that could be used to help alleviate the amount of nitrogen oxides in the environment. The base of the paint is polysiloxane, a silicon-based polymer, that allows nitrogen oxides to enter and attach to the embedded titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These particles absorb the UV radiation in sunlight and use the energy to convert the nitrogen oxides to nitric acid. The acid can either be washed away by rain or neutralized. It can also produce low quantities of carbon dioxide, water, and calcium nitrate, which can be washed by rain as well.

However, there are critics who believe the paint does not eliminate as much nitrogen oxides as thought. It is difficult to measure how much of the pollution is actually converted. While there are tests to help with measurement, they are not fully comprehensive. In addition, some of the technology behind the creation of paints differs among producers. This means that the while one producer may have an effective paint, another one may be more inefficient. The efficiency of the paints is still undergoing research.

This type of paint is a way cities could improve their pollution situation in the future. New paints that contain compounds to convert some of the harmful gases in the atmosphere can help reduce the smog in areas of the city more quickly than constructing new infrastructure or passing environmental laws. This alternative to active environmental engineering could be a simpler solution to some of the pollution issues of the world’s major cities.


Hogan, Jenny. “Smog-Busting Paint Soaks up Noxious Gases.” New Scientist. N.p., 4 Feb. 2004. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

“Paint Designed to ‘trap’ Pollution Dismissed by Experts.” Air Quality News. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

“Photochemical Smog – Windows to the Universe.” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

“Shanghai_smog.jpg (1600×1200).” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

“Titanium Dioxide Roofs Could Fight Air Pollution.” IFLScience. N.p., 16 Jun. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Edited by: Naomi D’Arbell & Karen Yung