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Key outcomes

  • Low-cost capture of dust
  • Capital costs minimised
  • Aesthetically sensitive solution

Dust plumes from materials handling and recycling facilities, located close to residential areas, creates a range of problems including undesirable localised deposition of dust particles and the development of respiratory issues. Depending on the facility, the dust may contain a wide range of chemical components such as fine crystalline silica. Industrial sites typically use a variety of dust prevention and capture techniques, each with its own costs and benefits.

In industry, trees commonly form a windbreak, slowing down the wind and reducing wind erosion. Although less commonly utilized, plants also capture dust, with most research focusing on their effectiveness in cities. Dust particles get trapped on leaves, where they eventually clump together with other particles and moisture. The effectiveness of dust capture depends on properties like porosity, leaf types, and vegetation density. With proper assessment and design, effective localized dust capture can be achieved.

A 3D CFD image of streamlines flowing through a row of trees in a remote town.
Figure 1: Streamlines coloured by airflow velocity through the vegetation. Wind direction is from left to right. The plants create a significant reduction in wind speed.

Synergetics’ engineering team used Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to simulate the effect of dense vegetation barriers as a dust mitigation solution, comparing different planting options to find an optimal solution for specific locations. Finding the right density is critical because sparse plantings will capture less dust, while very dense plantings will redirect dust laden wind over and around the plants, capturing very little dust in the process.
Collaborating with the client, we identified a mix of shrub and tree species that would thrive at the proposed locations. The final engineered solution is not only easy to implement and cost-effective but also aesthetically pleasing.

Coloured contours showing how dust concentrations reduce as air flows through a dense vegetation barrier.
Figure 2: Contours of particulate concentration downwind of a dense planting zone. The wind is from left to right, red contours correspond to high particulate concentration and blue contours are low concentrations. Concentrations are dramatically lower downwind of the plants.