Plants reduce pollution. People in industrialized countries spend more than 80% of their lives indoors, increasingly in airtight buildings.
These structures require less energy for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, but can be dangerous to human health if potentially toxic particles and gases, including carbon monoxide, ozone, and volatile organic compounds, from sources such as furniture, paint, carpets, etc. . and the office equipment accumulates.
Plants absorb toxins and can improve indoor air quality, but surprisingly very little is known about which plants are best for the job and how we can make plants perform better indoors.
In a review published in Trends in Plant Science, Frederico Brilli, a plant physiologist at the National Research Council of the Italian Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, and his colleagues conclude that a better understanding of plant physiology, coupled with integration Smart sensor -controlled air cleaning technologies could improve indoor air quality in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
“For most of us, plants are just a decorative element, something aesthetic, but they are also something else”Says Brilli. Plants improve air quality through several mechanisms: they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, they increase humidity by passing water vapor through microscopic pores, and they can passively absorb pollutants on the outer surfaces of leaves and in the root-soil system of the plant. But plants are generally selected for indoor use, not for their air-purifying capabilities, but for their appearance and survivability, while requiring little maintenance.
Surprisingly little research has been done to quantify the effects of different plant species on indoor air quality. NASA did pioneering work in the 1980s, but they relied on a simple experimental approach; Studies with modern and more sophisticated research methods and models have not yet been conducted. More research is needed to identify the characteristics of the highest performing plant species indoors, including their morphology (i.e. leaf shape and size), anatomy and physiology (i.e. rate of CO2 assimilation). According to Brilli, such studies could show how “optimize the use of plants indoors, in terms of how many plants per square meter we need to reduce air pollution to a certain level ".
Research is also needed to understand plant microbiomes - the populations of microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) that live with plants both in soil and on leaf surfaces. This microbiome participates in the removal of airborne pollutants, but the contribution of different microbial species to remove pollutants is currently unknown. Some microbiomes can also have negative effects on human health, such as triggering allergies and lung inflammation problems, so it will be important to know how to identify and avoid them.
Brilli and his colleagues do not envision plants replacing modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, but argue that integrating plants with smart sensor networks and other computerized technologies could cause more pollution than air cleaning to be redirected. be more profitable and sustainable. According to Brilli,"Plant physiologists should work with architects to improve green indoors."
More information:Trends in Plant Science , Brilli et al.: "Plants for the sustainable improvement of indoor air quality" http://www.cell.com/trends/plant-science/fulltext/S1360-1385(18)30046-3, DOI: 10.1016 / j.tplants.2018.03.004