Introducing The Self-Cleaning, Smog-Eating Building

Who needs trees when you have a building that eats smog?

smog over city

Struggling to breathe because of the layer of smog hovering in the atmosphere above you? Alcoa has come up with a potential solution for that most unpleasant of man-made environmental issues: the smog-eating building.

Alcoa's Reynobond with Ecoclean cleans both itself and the air around it, by decomposing smog, dirt, diesel fumes, and all the other nasty pollutants that hover around building surfaces. Alcoa claims that 10,000 square feet of the panels have the equivalent air-cleansing power of 80 trees. No need for trees when you have buildings that eat smog!

The panel features a titanium dioxide coating (that's the EcoClean part) on top of a pre-painted aluminum surface (that's the Reynobond). Sunlight acts as a catalyst to break down the pollutants on the aluminum panel into harmless particles that can be washed away by rain. Since the Reynobond surface is super hydrophilic, water particles don't bead on top of it—they collapse and run down the side of the building. Just a small amount of rain or humidity can clean the surface.

Alcoa explains how the technology can help smog-laden cities:

As the primary component of smog, NOx not only makes buildings dirty, but it also threatens the quality of the air we breathe. But when NOx molecules float near the surface of Reynobond with EcoClean, they are attacked by free radicals generated from the titanium dioxide reacting with water and oxygen in the air. The free radicals oxidize the NOx molecules, converting them to a harmless nitrate. In this way, Reynobond with EcoClean constantly works to remove pollutants by using sunlight and the water vapor and oxygen in the air to clean the air itself.

There are monetary benefits, too. The Reynobond with Ecoclean panels cost 4% to 5% more than their non-smog-eating counterparts, but they can cut a building's maintenance costs by up to half since the panels are self-cleaning.

The panels are currently in pilot testing in Europe and North America. Los Angeles building owners, prepare to buy a lot of smog-eating panels. Please.

[Image: Flickr user Daidaros]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

Add New Comment


  • Daniela

    I'm a little bit skeptical about how much this product will clean the air, but I do think that cleaner buildings in and of themselves are important for sustainability since good maintenance prolongs the useful life of materials, and are just more beautiful for everyone. 

  • Kate in Brooklyn

    Nitrates.... nitrates.... running off into our watersheds and hanging out with fish and drinking fountains. That's totally safe right? Guess we don't need trees after all! 

  • Irene Turner

    Well I'm not sure we don't need trees...I definitely want them! BUT, interesting idea, and like Jeffery below I'll be watching the results of the testing on these for sure. Watch out Hong Kong, Bejing, London, Kenya etc. I truly hope this works!

  • Jeffery Chapman

    Okay, and so the health impacts a making and standing next to Reynobond with Ecoclean are??? And if all the buildings in New York were covered with this stuff would it have a noticable impact? Sorry for the synical comment but I couldn't help it. I love these developments and so congrats to the developer but I am always thinking about the opportunity costs. If there aren't any, and if the effect is significant, then I'm excited. I will be watching this product for sure.