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Engineering college students create smog-eating roof tile

Roof tiles

Competition runners up or honorable mentions might just have brilliant ideas that could change the world.

This past May,engineering students from the University of California Riverside received an honorable mention award for phase two of an Environmental Protection Agency student design competition for their creation of a roof tile paint that eats smog emissions equivalent to that of a car driven 11,000 miles per year.

Titanium dioxide tile project

Tiles with and without the smog-eating paint

This roof coating is a paint made from titanium dioxide, the same chemical in commercial sunscreens. Applied to the surface of a roof, when air pollution particulates come in contact with it, the smog turns into harmless inert salts. It works well and it’s practical too. The student team estimates that the cost to cover the roof of a 2,400-square-foot house with this paint would be $5.00.


The students hope to expand their coating to other venues such as freeways and any surface that gets direct sunlight. One problem might be aesthetics. Currently the paint only comes in white. That’s a good-bad situation. White roofs reflect 90 percent sunlight versus standard black roofs that only reflect 20 percent. But not everyone wants a white roof, no matter how energy efficient it is. And this super-neat product is still only in concept form. It still needs funding to make it out of research mode. Let’s hope that students coming in this year take up and further the research and move this much-needed product forward. If so, it could help make a big dent in our global pollution problem.

Debra Atlas is a freelance environmental writer and eco-enthusiast based in Northern California, and is the Red Ferret’s Ecological Editor. Debra looks for the upside of eco-change – what’s positive, making a difference. She hunts down those interesting things cooked up by creative minds, especially if they’re strange and eccentric.

Debra Atlas – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


  • I’m already picturing light material coated with this paint and helicopters flying around LA absorbing all that pollution. That would be pretty awesome if it was as simple as I’m picturing it.

    • Things are never as simple as we hope. Right? :)

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