Roof Tiles for Geo-Engineering

by Dave Schuler on February 17, 2011

Here’s another really grand example of geo-engineering:

A California company is selling a “smog-eating” concrete tile roof that it says neutralizes the nitrogen oxides spewed by automobiles.

Boral Roofing says each year, one of its concrete tile roofs on a typical 2,000-square-foot house can break down the same amount of nitrogen oxides as a car’s engine typically produces during 10,800 miles of driving.

When sunlight hits the roof, it activates titanium dioxide, which breaks down the nitrogen oxides in the air into oxygen and nitrates, the company say. The tiles’ smog-fighting ability was proved in extensive laboratory testing and field studies conducted by a European Union consortium of academic and industry experts from 2002 to 2006.

The tile adds about $800 to the cost of the average 2,000-square-foot house.

Now if they could just get Southern Californians to drive just 10,800 miles per year… Still, it seems to me that the underlying technology may have applicability beyond roofing tiles (here in Chicago tile roofs aren’t unknown but they aren’t all that common, either).

Hat tip: Greg Mankiw

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy February 17, 2011 at 11:53 am

I seem to remember that volvo put a similar kind of catalytic coating on their radiators designed to do the same thing. Personally, I’m skeptical of the claimed efficiencies of these types of devices.

Drew February 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm

And if they could get those NO2 fumes to waft over the house (huge fans, maybe??!), for the requisite residence time (huge boxes, maybe??!), so the reaction could occur (and at the right temperature??) , and if the tiles could last how long? and if they were not covered in snow half the year, or rain…………

I’m originally trained and worked as a process engineer. I took from the research lab to commercial production the first HSLA steel rear axle for GM cars, from a solid “round.” Tremendous weight reduction.

But taking it from the research lab to commercial production is a bitch. Takes longer than these pinheads think, is more expensive than these pinheads think, and ultimately has less benefit than these pinheads think. Not to say there aren’t successes. But beware the pinheads. After all, that’s why they are pinheads, and not in production………

sam February 18, 2011 at 7:04 am

Pretty rough on the pinhead community, there bro. Still, “And if they could get those NO2 fumes to waft over the house” — the thing about LA, is there is no need for wafting at all, the crap is omnipresent. That is, until nightfall. Interesting factoid: at night the prevailing winds become easterly, and all the smog gets blown out to sea. The nights in LA are as wonderful as the days are awful.

Dave Schuler February 18, 2011 at 8:35 am

the thing about LA, is there is no need for wafting at all, the crap is omnipresent.

That’s why I mentioned Southern California in the body of the post. Note:

1. The company producing these tiles is a California company.
2. What sam said.
3. Tile roofs are pretty commonplace in California; elsewhere, not so much (maybe Arizona, Florida—I’m not so sure)
4. Los Angeles’s geography and topography produces a near-permanent inversion layer. Mother Nature is producing all the wafting required.
5. Drew’s point about the effective lifespan of the tiles is a good one. The productive life of a properly installed tile roof is between 50 to 70 years. Most recent construction probably isn’t properly installed and will have a lower productive life. However, the real question (to which I don’t know the answer) is what the value of the absorbtion is over the absorbtive life of the tile.

IMO this is a product with a pretty limited market but that’s better than no market at all. Products don’t need to be sold to every consumer from San Diego to Bangor to make them worthwhile. There may be a different solution applicable to Bangor that some smart Maine company can employ.

sam February 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

” Tile roofs are pretty commonplace in California; elsewhere, not so much (maybe Arizona, Florida—I’m not so sure)”

New Mexico. Albuquerque has a slight smog problem. And when I say “slight”, to LA’s, it is nothing. But because the city proper is in the Rio Grand Valley, a little inversion layer can form there. Not much of a problem for the residents, since most live on the east or west side of the valley, and are high enough up that the smog doesn’t reach. Besides, it’s an intermittent thing as the wind blows more often than not and the inversion layer doesn’t really get a chance to form. But when it does, you can see the blanket (vs LA, think baby blanket to Hudson bay blanket, two Hudson Bay blankets).

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