Preserving the Environment

A Roof That Can Clean the Air?

June 17, 2014
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A Roof That Can Clean the Air?
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It sounds almost too good to be true, but these tiles have a special smog-busting coating.

Now talk about something that smog-filled Southern California could really use.

Students at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed an insanely cheap and simple solution to air pollution.

According to UCR Today, the team created an experimental coating that, when applied to your average clay tile, can remove between 88 to 97 percent of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.

The coating is made of titanium dioxide — a very common product found in paint, sunscreen and even some candy — that breaks down nitrogen oxides found in air pollution. Remarkably (since the product is made of such an ordinary compound) the students say that it would only cost $5 to coat the average residential roof.

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Crunching the numbers, the young researchers figured that if the coating were applied to a single roof, it would gobble up the same amount of nitrogen oxide in one year that’s produced by a car driving 11,000 miles. Apply these tiles to a million homes, and they would eliminate 21 tons of nitrogen oxides every day —  about 4 percent of the 500 tons of nitrogen oxide emitted each day in Southern California.

That’s not too shabby of a return on a few bucks.

The coating inventors, who are all set to graduate, hope to see their project taken on by a new team of students for testing in the real world. Besides rooftops, these ambitious college seniors want to see their creation applied on concrete and freeway walls or dividers to curb another big SoCal problem: Traffic pollution.

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