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Brief Published: 6 Jun 2014

Active: Pollution-Ridding Ceramic Tiles

Active tiles

As air pollution becomes a bigger issue, particularly in cities, designers are inventing imaginative ways to solve the problem. The latest example is Active – a ceramic tile with a titanium oxide coating that not only makes it self-cleaning, but also able to purify the air of its surrounding environment. 

Resulting from a collaboration between several Italian tile manufacturers, the tiles work by borrowing a phenomenon from nature known as photocatalysis – the process of light speeding up a reaction. Triggered by light and humidity, the layer of titanium oxide on the tiles breaks down air pollutants and volatile organic compounds that hang in the air, turning them into harmless mineral salts.

The coating is also effective at decomposing grease, bacteria and odours on the material’s surface. This makes the tiles practically self-cleaning, as only water is needed to clean them, rather than harsh, chemical cleaning products. 

Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, the tiles have already garnered interest from several architecture firms. They are particularly appropriate for schools, hospitals and gyms – public spaces where cleanliness is a priority. 

As designers seek innovative processes and materials, many are turning to nature for inspiration, merging the organic with the high-tech. For more examples, see the Super Natural section of Materials Focus S/S 2016