Alcoa, Toto unveil green building panels that eat smog

Alcoa's new green building panel can self-clean by breaking down smog-causing pollutants in cities to be washed away by rain.

A skyscraper that devours the smog around it? Now that's what I call a smart idea.

Alcoa on Monday launched a coil-coated architectural panel that helps clean itself and the air around it.

Called "Reynobond with EcoClean," the product is a partnership between the aluminum giant and design-forward Japanese manufacturer Toto.

Alcoa says the panels reduce maintenance costs and helps decompose smog and other pollutants in the air that cling to building surfaces, from dirt to diesel fumes.

How effective is the technology? About 10,000 square feet of the panels can clean the air as well as 80 medium-sized deciduous trees, Alcoa says. It's enough to offset four cars each day.

You can imagine the applications of this green building technology: Times Square would glimmer a little brighter. Ultra-high skyscrapers wouldn't need to hire daring window cleaners to keep floor-to-ceiling windows transparent. And, at scale, a smog-choked Los Angeles could breathe a bit easier.

At the core of the concept is a proprietary process that takes Toto's patented Hydrotect technology -- which helps keep microbes at bay on that company's toilets, bath tubs and other bathroom fixtures -- and applies it to a hydrophilic titanium dioxide coating on the pre-painted aluminum surface of a Reynobond panel.

The result: an aluminum panel that, in the presence of sunlight, acts as a catalyst to break down organic pollutants on its surface and in the air around it. Once broken down, rainwater simply rinses them away.

Here's a look in a brief video:

Alcoa will formally debut the panel at the AIA 2011 National Convention and Design Exposition on May 12 in New Orleans.

[via Forbes]

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