PLEASANT RIDGE, (WKRC) - Cincinnati is using old technology in a new way to cut down on pollution.
In Pleasant Ridge, there's an additive on the street pavement that's working to clean the air as you drive. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) coats the pavement between Cypress Way and Coleridge Avenue.
"It breaks down the nitric oxide and dioxides that come out of tailpipes,” said Pavement Technology Inc.’s David Helm.
Helm says the company adds TiO2 to its road sealer. The chemical compound acts as a catalyst. Or, if you want to be less scientific about it, Montgomery Road is a “smog-eating road.”
"This is a process that happens naturally in the upper atmosphere in the stratosphere. We’re just bringing it down to the ground level to reduce that pollution where most of it occurs,” said Helm.
It's kind of like photosynthesis, but instead of the sun working with plants to create energy, here the sun and TiO2 in the pavement work together to break down pollutants.
The road doesn’t look any different, but test results say otherwise. Recent data shows the road is pulling in about 30-45% of tailpipe emissions.
"The City of Cincinnati is excited about the initial results and hoping to get some more grants that they have applied for that will continue this technology,” said Helm.
The city's pilot project using TiO2 was on a rehab and safety project along Montgomery from Cypress to Coleridge in May of 2020. And that will happen in 2026 as part of the city's safety improvement project along Victory Parkway, Eden Park Drive and Park Avenue.
Titanium dioxide has played a role in worldwide pollution reduction since being introduced to pavement in the '70s.
"It's an old technology with a new use,” said Cincinnati Department of Transportation Principal Engineer Chris Ertel.
Pavement technology Inc. began using it five years ago. Cincinnati became the first city in Ohio to use it back in 2020.