AMS Towards clean air: The Green Junkie, addicted to pollution

written by: Bert Heusinkveld & Charlotte Lelieveld, Wageningen UR

Human health within the city is greatly impacted by air pollution. On the map of Amsterdam (Fig. 1) you can see that urban street canyons with heavy traffic have serious air-quality issues. The map also shows that the air pollution is traffic related. Therefore traffic abatement measures can be very effective but aren’t always realistic.

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Figure 1: High levels of particulates air pollution visible along busy streets (source: www.atlasleefomgeving.nl)

Plants interact with the air and therefore could be capable of removing air pollutants. Especially plants with a large surface area with respect to their volume may be preferable. Additionally, hairy surfaces may contribute to an extra decrease of air pollutant. Therefore, the “Green Junkie”, that has a very hairy leaf surface, seems to be a good candidate for this purpose (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2: Hairy leaf surface of the “Green Junkie” plant

In order to quantify the claim that these hairy plant leaves are capable of extracting particulates from the air we decided to install the plants inside a wind-tunnel. In this way, it is possible to test the quality of the air that comes in, and the air that comes out.

Air pollution, as we can measure on the streets, is a complex mixture of all sorts of components ranging from gas to ultrafine dust and course dust. In order to acquire insight on the effects of the Green Junkie on real-time air pollution, we will set-up wind-tunnel experiments in the urban area of Amsterdam. The novelty is that we will ‘feed’ those hairy plants with real-time air pollution. We think that such a real-time test will give a better reflection of the cleaning properties of those hairy plants in comparison to lab-experiment. This living-lab test facility gives a good indication of the effects of the Green Junkie in the living environment.

In order to realize on-site testing with the wind-tunnel, we have constructed a mobile wind-tunnel at the mechanical workshop of Van der Veldt in Uithoorn. This enables us to execute on-site testing at every desired location. In Fig. 3, you can see the fan section and air contraction conus of the wind-tunnel under-construction.

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Figure 3: Construction of the wind-tunnel sections (at van der Veldt, Uithoorn)

In order to realize sufficient experiments, the wind-tunnel requires considerable filling of the Green Junkie plant (>1.7 m). As this plant is specially bred and not widely available yet, these tests are depending on the amount available Green Junkie. After some challenges with the growing conditions of the plants, the Green Junkie is ready to grow. However, in order to have sufficient comparison material the plants require two extra months in order to excel.

We will start testing with the Green Junkie in June. We’ll keep you posted on more information about the construction of the wind-tunnel and the experiments!

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Figure 4: New breads of the Green Junkie, ready to grow and be tested.

More information about Green Junkie can be found here.

 Bert Heusinkveld and Charlotte Lelieveld, Wageningen UR (charlotte.lelieveld@wur.nl)