Biking or walking on a hot day can make you feel like you’re in an oven because dark pavement absorbs and retains heat. But applying a special coating to streets and bike paths could help cool them off.
Nicole Iroz-Elardo is an urban planning and public health researcher. She’s part of a University of Arizona-led team that’s testing a product made with titanium dioxide.
“It’s one of the major ingredients in your mineral sunscreen, and it works by reflecting UVA and UVB rays,” Iroz-Elardo says.
She says it soaks into the pavement and dries clear, so it does not create a glare that could distract drivers.
In lab tests, the material has been shown to reduce the surface temperature of pavement.
So now Iroz-Elardo’s team is working with the city of Tucson to test it on a stretch of road. They’ll monitor how it affects air temperature and people’s comfort.
She says the approach is not a substitute for planting shade trees.
“Shade rules the day when it comes to reducing temperature and how we feel it as pedestrians,” she says.
But if effective, cool pavement technology could be used in areas where trees cannot grow or would interfere with power lines.
So it could help make biking and walking more enjoyable as cities experience more hot days.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Molly Matthews Multedo