In the last ten years, there has been a noticeable worsening of fine dust conditions in Korea, as observed by the public, marked by a rise in the frequency of days with high-concentration fine dust.
Moreover, the previous maximum fine-dust concentration level has been exceeded. In response to these environmental concerns, the Korean government has escalated its financial investment in initiatives dedicated to addressing and mitigating the issues associated with fine dust.
Fine dust comprises particles that are too minuscule to be discerned with the naked eye. When these particles infiltrate the human body through the skin and respiratory system, they can induce various diseases.
According to a survey conducted by the Korea Environment Institute, three out of ten people in Korea have encountered diseases attributed to fine dust exposure. Notably, NO2 and NO, primary components of exhaust gas, are recognized as sources of fine dust.
In light of this situation, the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT, led by President Kim Byung-suk) has created a material for essential components designed to environmentally and effectively absorb NOx and SOx.
Presently, the most widely employed methods for removing nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) in various applications are selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and flue gas desulfurization (FGD). These methods are based on oxidation-reduction reactions. However, they have a significant drawback as they demand substantial amounts of thermal energy and high temperatures. In essence, these techniques are characterized by high energy consumption.
As a substitute, the “Environmental Nanomaterials Laboratory” under the KICT's Department of Environmental Research has recently developed a material. This material exhibits the capability to promptly mineralize pollutants through a complex mechanism. It readily adsorbs and oxidizes sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) at room temperature.
The research team led by Dr. Jiyeol Bae developed the state-of-the-art nanocomposite material, which can be repeatedly reused as it can be regenerated for recycling through simple chemical treatments.
The ceramic nanomaterial, crafted from sodium-manganese oxides, represents a hybrid material merging adsorption and oxidation reactions. This unique combination enables the material to chemically absorb sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) while simultaneously mineralizing them into sulfate ions and nitrite ions.
The research team has achieved a milestone by publishing the world's first paper on materials capable of mineralizing acid gases at room temperature. Their ongoing efforts involve further refining the developed material to make it more universally applicable as an energy-efficient and eco-friendly solution for efficiently reducing SOx and NOx gases.
With the development of this novel nanomaterial, it is now possible to implement a system that can reduce fine-dust precursors from urban environments in an eco-friendly and cost-effective manner. All these efforts will help the general public enjoy clean and healthy air.
Dr. Jiyeol Bae, Scientist and Author, Department of Environmental Research, Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology
Bae, J., et al. (2023). Novel application of sodium manganese oxide in removing acidic gases in ambient conditions. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-29274-9.