Over in Mexico City, the Hospital General Doctor Manuel Gea Gonzalez has a unique feature. One side of its building supports a material that breaks down the conglomerate of sulfur oxides, soot particles, nitrogen oxides and more that compose smog. The facade is build of tiles called Prosolve370e. The key ingredient of the tiles is their titanium dioxide coating. Titanium dioxide is commonly found in sunscreen paints, varnishes, printing inks, fibers, cosmetic products, electrical ceramics, and food coloring.
The reaction occurs when smog encounters the building tiles and ultraviolet rays from sunlight. The reaction breaks down the pollutants into less toxic substances such as calcium nitrate, carbon dioxide, and water. The structure in Mexico City can counter act the effects of air pollution from 1,000 cars.
The Berlin based design firm Elegant Embellishments created the design for the Torre de Especialidades building at the Hospital. The curving design of the tiles is inspired by natural shapes, like coral, and spreads the reactions over 27,000 square feet. The project is part of a 20 billion government investment in Mexico’s health infrastructure.
Since the tiles are only in place on one building, the reaction will not make significant impact on Mexico City’s smog problem. However, designers and scientists expect significant local improvement in air quality. In the surrounding area of the hospital, pollutant levels will be reduced and people’s health may improve. It is clear that the same project can be implemented in any large city around the world, such as Beijing or Los Angeles. As cities grow and the amount of cars increases exponentially, innovative solutions such as the “smog eating building” may become necessary for public health.
For more information and visuals on the project, view this CNN video.
By Alanna Scheinerman, Class of 2013