MANCHESTER, England, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Simple blast fences called baffles could act as "virtual chimneys" to improve air quality for people living near airports, British researchers say.
Placed behind a runway where aircraft are taking off, the baffles could funnel emissions from aircraft engines upwards where they can disperse more effectively, reducing the environmental impact on people living nearby, they said.
Researchers from several British universities have created and tested prototype baffles using funding from the country's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
After preliminary wind tunnel testing, an array of three rows of baffles was installed at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire, an EPSRC release reported Thursday.
The testing proved aircraft exhaust plumes could be made to leave the ground within the airport's boundary fence, researches said.
"Airfield surfaces are typically covered with grass, over which the wind can blow freely," project leader Mike Bennett said. "An array of baffles makes the surface rough in an aerodynamic sense. This sucks the momentum out of the exhaust jet, allowing its natural buoyancy to come into play. By suitably angling the baffles, we can also give the exhaust an upward push, encouraging it to rise away from the ground."
Long-term ground-level nitrogen dioxide concentrations around many major airports in Europe have already exceed the legal limit enforced by the European Union, the researchers said.
The baffles could be a low-cost solution that could be ready soon, Bennett said.
"There's no reason why baffles couldn't start to be installed at airports within two or three years."