Air pollutant sinks on noise barriers: Where do they perform the best?

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While laboratory experiments, numerical simulations as well as field tests have underlined the influence of noise barriers in dispersing vehicular emissions and reducing downwind peak concentrations, these pollutants still remain in the atmosphere. Artificial pollutant sinks (for example, particle capturing or toxic gas treating devices) installed on top of noise barriers can further alleviate this problem by eliminating the pollutants passing through it. However, it is not known how the installation of a semi-permeable pollutant sink affects the aerodynamics of the pollutants’ flow. By finding an optimal position and orientation for these sinks, the mass of the pollutants reaching the sink inlet can be maximized. Scaled down water tunnel experiments have been used to investigate the effectiveness of installing such a pollutant sink, of fixed dimensions, on top of a noise barrier adjacent to a highway. It is found that installing a sink is more beneficial on top of shorter barriers and that vertically elevating the sink, only slightly, can enhance its pollutant capturing performance. Using a sink in a ‘highway canyon’ (two noise barriers placed symmetrically with respect to the highway) must be done cautiously as there are several flow regimes observed, which are sensitive not only to the canyon aspect ratio (ratio between canyon width and height), but also to the presence/absence of the sink. The results here not only demonstrate the effectiveness of installing pollutant sinks on noise barriers, but also provide ballpark estimates on the optimal placement, orientation and performance of these devices, prior to field tests or even large-scale installation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-154
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Air pollutant sinks
  • Highway canyon
  • Laboratory scale experiments
  • Noise barrier
  • Pollutant dispersion

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