Aluminum giant Alcoa, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh but has a large operation in Cleveland off Harvard Ave., has perhaps the coolest news of the day.
According to a release, the company will be debuting a building coating that will literally eat smog. Not a ton of smog, but enough to notice. The material, EcoClean, will be unveiled on a building in North Carolina; its main role will be to keep the outside of the building looking snazzy (no smog stains, bird poop, etc.), but the secondary bonus is that it "sucks in airborne pollutants and transforms them into harmless substances."
Alcoa claims that 10,000 square feet of the coating material - named EcoClean™ - has a “smog removal power” equivalent to about 80 trees, or enough to offset the airborne pollution emitted by four cars per day.
The “smog-eating” process itself is relatively simple: Titanium dioxide is a well known photocatalyst, and sunlight produces a reaction in titanium dioxide that energizes its electrons. When this energy is transferred to water vapor in the air, it forms oxidizers (free radicals) that attack particles of organic matter sitting on the panel’s surface, or floating nearby.
As far as airborne pollutants go, the substance in question is nitrogen oxide, which is a primary component of smog.
The reaction between titanium dioxide, sunlight and water vapor turns airborne nitrogen oxide into a harmless nitrate (nitrates are commonly used in fertilizer).
There, you learned something today. Ta-da.