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ORLEN testing ecological asphalt to limit air pollution

Polish energy company ORLEN Group announced on Tuesday (12 December) that its Research and Development Centre and the Gdańsk University of Technology have developed a new ecological asphalt that reduces harmful substances from car exhaust fumes and heating installations.

Laboratory tests have confirmed the effectiveness of the new material, with the first test section of the road using innovative asphalt being built in Kajków near Ostróda (western Poland). The asphalt surface is designed to reduce air pollution at a higher level than products currently available on the market, ORLEN said in a press release.

“For the production of asphalt, we used a photocatalytic material developed by the Gdańsk University of Technology, which causes pollutants to break down under the influence of sunlight. Our material shows much higher efficiency than other products on the market, which only reduce the concentration of nitrogen oxides,” said Prof. Anna Zielińska-Jurek from the Chemical Faculty of the Gdańsk University of Technology. “Meanwhile, the new eco-friendly asphalt developed jointly by the Gdańsk University of Technology and the ORLEN Research and Development Center can neutralize other substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons contained in PM2.5 suspended particles, including the carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene.”

The eco-friendly asphalt is also expected to reduce the carcinogenic compounds levels from heating homes with conventional fuels. Laboratory tests conducted at the Gdańsk University of Technology’s reaction chamber on samples of eco-asphalt surfaces confirmed a reduction of, among others, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 40 per cent and the carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene by 25 per cent. These are significantly better parameters than those of other similar products available on the market.

“Thanks to the combination of recycled materials with our asphalts, newly constructed roads are in no way inferior to roads built entirely from new materials. Recycling asphalt surfaces is a solution commonly used in the United States and Western European countries. It allows companies implementing road investments to reduce the consumption of natural resources, i.e. asphalt and aggregate, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the energy consumption of the construction process,” said Paweł Wachnik, President of ORLEN Asfalt.

The location of the test section near Ostróda was chosen due to its proximity to the S7 expressway and the surroundings of households emitting pollutants from heating boilers. The tests will last for 12 months and data will be collected using sensors to measure pollution levels placed directly by the road and from samples taken from the surface and sent to the laboratory.

The company aims to verify the eco-friendly properties of the asphalt in real operating conditions. The results obtained are expected to be the basis for deciding whether to implement eco-friendly asphalt into production.

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