Modelling and experimental validation of deposition on vegetation to facilitate urban particulate matter mitigation
Exposure to air pollution, such as particulate matter (PM), causes adverse health effects, particularly to the respiratory tract and cardiovascular system. PM is the collective name for all kinds of particles ranging from small particles and liquid droplets, which contain organic compounds, acids and metals, to soil or dust particles. One distinguishes PM10, PM2.5 and PM0.1, which have aerodynamic particle sizes smaller than 10, 2.5 and 0.1 µm, respectively. It is mainly the latter that is the most harmful, as PM0.1 penetrates deep into the respiratory system and carries relatively more toxic substances than the other PM fractions. Over a 15-year period, PM concentrations in European member states have fallen by about 30%. Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines, which became stricter in 2021, are exceeded in most places around the world. Particularly in cities, excessive levels of PM are measured and it is here that PM mitigation should be investigated. For this, the implementation of urban green infrastructure, including trees, shrubs, green roofs and green walls, is being looked at. Plants hinder airflow and remove PM from the air by deposition on their leaves and branches. This process is known as dry deposition. Plants can capture PM very efficiently, due to their complex structure of leaves and branches. Green walls offer significant advantages over other types of urban green infrastructure because they can grow on the huge available wall area and, because they do not hinder air circulation, as we sometimes see with trees. Green walls are believed to have a much greater, untapped potential to reduce PM pollution. However, a literature review showed that we do not know the quantitative impact of green walls and lack the tools and/or general methodology to do so. The objective of this thesis is therefore to develop a method for assessing PM removal by green walls, based on predictive models and based on relevant parameters that are experimentally determined. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is a numerical method to simulate airflow in complex environments such as cities. These models can also simulate the vegetation-wind interaction in detail and are interesting tools to assess the effect of green walls on PM concentrations in real environments. It is important to first study the aerodynamic effect of green walls and parameterise it correctly in CFD models. Plants decrease the wind speed and create turbulence through a combination of viscous and form drag, which are determined by the permeability (K) and drag coefficient (Cd), respectively. Wind tunnel experiments were conducted with three commonly found climbers (Hedera helix, Parthenocissus tricuspidata and Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and the variation of leaf area density was investigated for two of them. It was observed that the air resistance depended on plant species, leaf area density and wind speed. The difference between the plant species was assigned to the functional leaf size (FLS), the ratio of the largest circle within the boundaries of the leaf to the total leaf area. FLS is likely associated with other morphological characteristics of plants that, when considered collectively, provide a more comprehensive representation of leaf complexity. The pressure and velocity measurements obtained were used to optimise the permeability and drag coefficient in a CFD model. At wind speeds below 0.6 m s-1, the resistance was mainly determined by viscous drag and a larger leaf size resulted in a higher viscous drag. At wind speeds above 1.5 m s-1, form drag was dominant and the parameterised Cd decreased with increasing wind speed due to the sheltering effect of successive plant elements. The leaf area density had a significant effect on K and Cd and, is therefore an important plant parameters in CFD models. The main conclusion here is that the common practice of using a constant Cd to model the influence of plants on the air flow leads to deviations from reality. Wind tunnels are highly suitable to study the impact of green walls on PM concentration under controlled environmental conditions. For this purpose, a new wind tunnel setup was built and great attention was paid to obtaining a uniform air flow. Thus, based on CFD models, appropriate flow controllers were chosen, consisting of honeycombs and screens with different mesh sizes. New PM generation devices and measuring equipment were installed and set up appropriately. Devices were available for generating and measuring ultrafine dust (<0.1 µm, i.e. PM0.1) and fine dust (<0.3 µm, i.e. PM0.3) consisting of soot particles, and, on the other hand, fine dust with particle sizes smaller than 2.5 (PM2.5) and 10 µm (PM10) consisting of 'Arizona fine test dust'. With the new wind tunnel setup, it was possible to measure the influence of Hedera helix (common ivy), grown in a planter against a climbing aid, on the PM concentration and this was expressed by a collection efficiency, i.e. the difference in concentration in front and behind the plants normalised for the incoming concentration. The collection efficiency of H. helix depended on the particle size of the PM and wind speed. The collection efficiency decreased when the particle size increased from 0.02 to 0.2 µm and increased again for particle sizes above 0.3 µm. The collection efficiency also increased with increasing wind speed, especially for particle sizes > 0.03 µm. On the other hand, relative humidity and the type of PM (soot or dust) did not significantly affect the collection efficiency. The main objective of this study was to obtain an optimised size-resolved deposition model. Dry deposition occurs through several mechanisms, in particular gravity, diffusion, impaction and interception, and the subsequent resuspension of deposited PM back to the environment. The modelling of these mechanisms was described by \citet{Zhang2001} and \citet{Petroff2010}. The data obtained from the wind tunnel experiments allowed validating these deposition models. It was for the first time that deposition of real PM on green walls was studied. The different PM deposition mechanisms were found to be strongly dependent on particle size and wind speed. The models of \citet{Zhang2001} and \citet{Petroff2010} each matched PM concentration measurements for only certain particle sizes. Therefore, a combination of the two models was investigated and the root mean square error was lower by on average 3.5% (PM < 0.03 µm) and 46% (PM > 0.03 µm) compared to the original models at wind speeds greater than 1.5 m s-1. For wind speeds less than 1.5 m s-1, the optimised model did not differ from the original models. The optimised model was able to meet the imposed criteria for air quality models, where a correct model exhibits low deviation from measurements ('normalised mean square error' < 1.5), low bias ('fractional bias' between -0.3 and 0.3) and high R2. In comparison, the R$2$ of the optimised model was 0.57, while that of Zhang et al. (2001) and Petroff et al. (2010) was 0.23 and 0.31, respectively. The optimised model was however characterised by a high scatter, with the fraction of modeled results located within a factor of two of the measurements being lower than 50. A model study with a green façade oriented parallel to the incoming airflow showed that deposition by interception and impaction reduced remarkably, but that the orientation had no effect on deposition by Brownian diffusion. A promising green wall form for PM mitigation is the living wall system (LWS). LWS consist of supporting structures with substrate to grow plants in and can be planted with a variety of plant species. This allows to select plant species with optimal characteristics to achieve PM deposition. These characteristics refer to the macro- and microstructure of the leaves, and research has been conducted mainly on these. On the other hand, the influence of the supporting structure and substrate on PM concentrations has rarely been studied. With the new wind tunnel setup, LWS from different manufacturers were tested for their ability to capture PM. The setups were subjected for three hours to an air flow with a low PM concentration (resuspension phase) and then for three hours to an air flow to which additional PM was added (deposition phase). Some setups were able to decrease the PM concentration during both phases, while others just caused the concentration to increase. Some systems were able to reduce particulate matter concentration during both phases, namely LWS consisting of planters (-2% and -4% for PM0.1 and PM2.5, respectively) and textile cloths (-23% and -5% for PM0.1 and PM2.5, respectively). While other systems actually resulted in an increase in concentration especially LWS existing textile fabrics consisting of geotextiles (+11% for both PM fractions) and with moss as substrate (+2% and +5% for PM0.1 and PM2.5, respectively). This highlights the importance of careful selection of suspension systems to reduce particulate matter concentrations. Further research is therefore needed on the materials used in these systems in relation to their particulate content, as well as on plant development in these systems. In addition to air measurements, measurements were taken of the amount of PM deposited on the leaves and suspension system of LWS. This allowed the difference in PM resuspension and deposition between plant species to be investigated. The amount of deposited particulate matter was determined based on 'saturation isothermal remanent magnetisation' (SIRM), a measure of magnetisable particulate matter. This was possible because the added 'Arizona fine test dust' contained iron oxide. However, no significant difference was observed between the SIRM values measured before the wind tunnel experiment, after resuspension and after deposition. This suggested that the iron oxide content in the Arizona fine test dust was too low to measure a significant difference in the SIRM values on leaves after three hours. The plant species did give rise to different SIRM values ranging between 5 and 260 µ A. In particular, SIRM values above 26 µ A were observed for the plant species that were grouped due to their significantly higher accumulation of PM. 'Specific leaf area' (SLA), specifically the ratio of the one-sided 'fresh' leaf area to its dry mass, was the significant leaf characteristic. SLA correlated with leaf complexity. In particular, plant species with elongated leaves were characterized by low SLA, high FLS and high complexity and showed significantly higher SIRM values. Finally, the optimised size-resolved deposition model was also tested in an urban model to get an idea of the impact of a green wall on PM concentrations in a so-called 'street canyon'. These are narrow streets with high buildings on both sides, making air pollution more persistent. To this end, an ideal scenario was tested in which a green wall was introduced along both sides of the street over a length of about 270 m. The model result showed a decrease in PM2.5 and PM10 of 46 ± 12% and 52 ± 14%. This result is of course for a very optimal scenario where the green wall covers the entire building façades. Since this is not feasible in reality, other ways of promoting contact between green walls and polluted air can be explored. The insights obtained illustrate that the use of climbing plants can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to reduce PM concentrations. Moreover, the findings showed that models can be used to investigate the impact of green walls on PM levels. These findings fit within the broader context of designing healthy and sustainable urban environments and developing innovative solutions based on solid scientific knowledge.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Science , 2023
xxvi, 234 p.
Supervisor: Denys, Siegfried [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Samson, Roeland [Supervisor]
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The publisher created published version Available from 20.09.2024
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Creation 04.10.2023
Last edited 05.10.2023
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