A team of scientists led by Frederico Brilli, a plant physiologist at the Italian National Research Council, concluded that using well-studied plant properties along with other air purification technologies can improve indoor air quality in an economical and sustainable way.
Plants purify the air through several mechanisms: they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, increase humidity by passing water vapor through the microscopic pores of the leaves, and can passively absorb pollutants from the outer surface of leaves and roots. But few people pay attention to these properties. "For most of us, plants are just a decorative element, something aesthetic ..." says Brilli.
In the 1980s, NASA was researching indoor air purification using plants, but they relied on a simple experimental approach. Scientists are now proposing more sophisticated studies using modern methods to characterize the most efficient indoor plant species, including morphology (that is, leaf shape and size), anatomy and physiology (that is, CO2 assimilation rate). According to Brilli, such studies could show how to “optimize indoor plant use in terms of the number of plants per square meter ...”.
Research is also needed to understand plant microbiomes: populations of microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) that live with plants both in the soil and on leaf surfaces. The microbiome is involved in the removal of pollutants in the air, but the contribution of various microbial species to this process is currently unknown. In addition, some microbiomes can have negative health effects such as allergies. Therefore, the study of the characteristics of indoor plants is of great importance.
Plants are usually loved for their beauty and attractive appearance. Scientists have found that some houseplants purify the air of a number of toxic compounds. Most people know that plants, during photosynthesis, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Even this property alone is the basis for the maintenance of their home.
Let's figure out how potted flowers are actually useful and whether they make the air cleaner.