Roofcorp has reported on new reflective roofing materials that can help reduce the urban heat island effect and materials that can save the homeowner money by making the home more energy efficient. These are all great developments in roofing stepping up an environmentally friendly cause but students at University of California, Riverside have taken their efforts a step further.

The students of University of California – Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed roofing tiles that can clean the air. The tiles are coated with titanium dioxide, a compound already found in everything from construction materials to your food. The compound targets one particular pollutant, nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen Oxides are produced as a byproduct from fuel burning, mostly in cars. The compound is a large contributor to dirty air and smog.

The students created a mini atmosphere in a chamber, complete with different kinds of construction materials such as wood and plastics and filled the chamber with the nitrogen oxide. The students used a UV light to recreate solar rays. In their tests the coated tiles removed up to 97 percent of nitrogen oxide.

They used the tests to calculate the cleaning power of these tiles used at a large scale. A single home coated with the titanium dioxide could clean enough nitrogen oxide out of the air in one year to equal the pollutant output of a car after driving 11,000 miles. They scaled things up even farther, if one million average size homes were coated with the compound they could clean 21 tons of nitrogen oxide out of the air every year.

The research by the students was developed as part of an Environmental Protection Agency student design competition.

Surely this kind of coating must cost a pretty penny if it cleans so efficiently? The grand total to coat the entire roof of an average sized home?

Five dollars.

The students are also looking at other ways that the compound can be utilized. It has been proposed to be mixed in with exterior paint or applied to retaining walls and exterior structural components. More research is being performed on the coating’s lifespan and how it will effect other materials. We will keep you up to date on the future of this material on roofs and more!