Mexico City is the latest to show off a building that sucks up pollution. Dubbed the Torre de Especialidadesis, this hospital takes advantage of a new tile made by the Berlin-based company Elegant Embellishments called proSolve37e. The tiles are based on the same kind of technology that Alcoa unveiled a couple of years ago, except the resultant façades are much prettier and the effects are more powerful.
The basic idea behind this smog-eating technology is organic chemistry at its finest. Simply speaking, a titanium dioxide coating on the building materials creates a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with ultraviolet rays and pollutants in the air.
As Forbes environment editor Todd Woody explains, “electrons in the titanium dioxide become supercharged and interact water molecules in the air … [releasing] free radicals that break down organic material on the building panel and pollutants such as nitrogen oxide in the surrounding atmosphere.” So the tiles clean themselves while converting pollution into harmless compounds. Meanwhile, the titanium oxide coating remains unaffected, ready to zap some more smog.
That’s crazy, but it gets crazier. The particular mesh-like design of the façade on the Torre de Especialidadesis maximizes surface area, boosting the tiles’ pollution equalizing effects. The shape of the tiles themselves “create omni-directionality, and surface enlargement, which enhances their ability to receive and scatter UV light,” Elegant Embellishments founder Allison Dring explains. “The shapes slow wind speeds and create turbulence, for better distribution of pollutants across the active surfaces.”