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University of California Riverside - Cleaning the air with roof tiles

DCN Corp® - At left, two tiles coated with the titanium dioxide (TiO2) mixture. At right, uncoated tiles. At top, a commercially available tile with TiO2.  Credit - University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Bourns College of EngineeringStudents at University of California, Riverside - Bourns College of Engineering - have developed Titanium dioxide roof tile coating that removes up to 97% of smog-causing Nitrogen oxides

The creation of a roof tile coating when applied to an average-sized residential roof breaks down the equivalent amount of smog-causing Nitrogen oxides/year as a car driven 11,000 miles.

The students calculated 21 tons of Nitrogen oxides would be eliminated daily if tiles on 1 million roofs were coated with their Titanium dioxide (TiO2) mixture.  Also, they calculated that it would cost approximately $5 for enough TiO2 to coat an average-sized residential roof.

Such an innovation would have a significant impact especially in Southern California, whereby 500 tons of Nitrogen oxides are emitted/day in the South Coast Air Quality Management District coverage area, which includes all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and/or San Bernardino counties.

In May 2014, the research by the University of California, Riverside (UCR) team - Carlos Espinoza, Louis Lancaster, Chun-Yi "Jimmy" Liang, Kelly McCoy, Jessica Moncayo and Edwin Rodriguez - received an honourable mention award for Phase Two of an Environmental Protection Agency student design competition.

In addition, another UCR student team who worked on the project last year (2013) received $15,000 as a Phase One winner of EPA's P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition.  The team consisted of William Lichtenberg, Duc Nguyen, Calvin Cao, Vincent Chen and Espinoza.  Please Note Espinoza was an undergraduate student who is now graduate at UCR.

Both teams mentioned, above, were advised by David Cocker - Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering - and Kawai Tam - lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering.

Unfortunately, Nitrogen oxides are formed when fossil fuels are burnt at high temperatures.  Nitrogen oxides then react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to create smog.

Nowadays, there are competitor roofing tiles on the market that help reduce pollution from Nitrogen oxides, but, unfortunately, there is little commercial/field testing data, which proves they reduce smog.

Positively the students set out to change that.  Their idea being to coat two identical off-the-shelf clay tiles with different amounts of TiO2, a common compound found in everything from paint-to-food-to-cosmetics.  The tiles were then placed inside a miniature atmospheric chamber that the students built out of wood, Teflon and PVC piping.

The chamber was connected to a source of Nitrogen oxides and a device that reads concentrations of Nitrogen oxides.  Subsequently they employed ultraviolet (UV) light to simulate a sunlight outcome, which activates the TiO2 and allows it to break down the Nitrogen oxides.

The research found that TiO2 coated tiles removed between 88% and 97% of the Nitrogen oxides.  They also found there was not much of a difference in Nitrogen oxide removal when different amounts of the coating were applied, despite one having about 12 times as much TiO2 coating.  Also, there was not much of a difference, because surface area, not the layers/quantity of coating was the important factor.

The current team of students, want a new student team to experiment and see what happens when they add their TiO2 dioxide to exterior paint.  Plus, they are considering in applying the coating to concrete, walls or dividers along freeways.  Additional experimental questions include: how long the coating will last when applied, and what impact changing the colour of coating (white) would have. Original article available here

The above research positively highlights the innovation gained from even and nanomaterial coatings.  As stated previously, DCN Corp strongly believes it can contribute, by increasing the above claimed environmental savings.  Going forward, if you and/or your colleagues are interested in making reality - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.