June 17, 2005 Italian ceramic tile manufacturer Gambarelli has produced a remarkable new tile that catalyses a reaction with pollution to break it down to salt and purify the air. Gambarelli’s new Oxygena range of tiles is coated with titanium dioxide, which has photocatalytic properties - when exposed to sunlight, it activates a reaction similar to that of chlorophyll photosynthesis in plants. In university tests, it has been found in eight hours of exposure to daylight, one square metre of Oxygena tiles purifies 72 cubic metres of air.
Oxygena was created for outdoor use (buildings, balconies, walkways) but can also be laid internally in baths and kitchens and rooms in general. The tile is already being used in Italy for town piazzas, pavements, roundabouts, hospitals, schools and airports and planned usage is growing rapidly as councils see a way of reducing pollution in built-up areas.
The tile’s photocatalytic properties cause a reaction between air and sunlight where active oxygen is produced which, when it comes in contact with pollutants such as nitrogen monoxide and dioxide (found in vehicle exhaust gases and chiefly responsible for poor air quality) activates a chemical reaction which destroys the pollutant, transforming it into harmless eco-compatible salts.
The dioxide is also effective on other pollutants found in the air of a polluted town or city such as PM10, volatile organic compounds, NH3 gas, polyaromatic compounds, formaldehyde and fine dust particles.
The tiles are protected by an international patent and may have benefits beyond sunlit areas as it has been found that the photocatalytic process can be induced outdoors at night and in rooms without windows by using special light bulbs. The manufacturers claim the process will work for a minimum of ten years.