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Church In Rome Offers Solution to Smog November 28, 2006

Posted by Michael in Science.

In much of the world, especially developing countries, urban centers are choking to death on smog.  If you have travelled to Seoul or São Paulo or Mexico City, you have experienced a grim reality —  the air is frequently poisonous.

A church in Rome, designed to maintain it’s stark white appearance, has fortuitously offered a ray of hope.  It turns out that the cement surface includes a compound that eats smog.

Smog Eating Church 


MILAN, Nov. 27 — When the American architect Richard Meier was asked to design a church in Rome to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, he offered an imposing white concrete structure dominated by three soaring “sails.”The project’s main technical sponsor got to work on a coating that would enhance Mr. Meier’s trademark white sculptural forms. It came up with a material that essentially cleans itself, minimizing the need for maintenance.

What the sponsor, the Italcementi Group, did not know was that the new material — which contains titanium dioxide, a white pigment — has another peculiarity. It “eats” surrounding smog.

Extensive testing has since determined that construction products containing titanium dioxide help to destroy pollutants found in car exhaust and heating emissions, scientists say.

Several companies are now developing smog-eating products that can be used not only for the facades of buildings but also in paint, plaster and paving materials for roads. The new substances are now being tried in buildings, squares and highways in Europe and Japan.

It’s too soon to say whether this will actually work on a large scale, or whether the widespread use of smog eating surfaces will be commercially viable.  But initial tests are certainly encouraging.

According to Italcementi, tests in urban settings determined that some pollutants could be reduced by 20 to 70 percent.

The reduction of pollutants is greatest within about eight feet of a surface that has been treated, the company said. This means that a pedestrian on a street with traffic would inhale fewer pollutants while passing treated buildings.

In one test, paving material using photocatalytic cement was used to cover the asphalt surface of a 1,000-foot stretch of road outside Milan with an average traffic flow of 1,000 vehicles an hour. Tests showed a reduction of about 60 percent in nitrogen oxides at street level, according to Italcementi.

Church on the Edge of Rome Offers a Solution to Smog – New York Times


1. Mrs. Peel - November 28, 2006

designed to maintain it’s stark white appearance


2. Lipstick - November 28, 2006

hahaha! Its great when Michael gets caught.

3. kevlarchick - November 28, 2006

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Air.

4. Michael - November 28, 2006


At least I got that squiggly tilde in São Paulo. I should get points for that.

5. Dave in Texas - November 28, 2006

As winter approaches, laura maintains her stark white appearance.

6. Retired Geezer - November 28, 2006

He shoots, he SCORES.

7. lauraw - November 28, 2006

Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I have yet to take up the hobby of sliding down excavating equipment with my face.
Must be a Texas thing, I guess.

BTW: When I came home this afternoon my husband was wheeling a handtruck out the kitchen, and told me to go upstairs.

Naturally I heated myself some dinner first, while he hopped from foot to foot and whined.

Went up there with my plate, and what to my wondering eyes did appear…a brand new Sewing machine.

Brand new except that it was made in 1951. An electric Singer, the kind that swings up out of a cute table with a hinged extension, you drive it with a knee pedal, has the chair, instruction manual, accessory feet and everything!
I love it. Threaded it up, made a few adjustments and I’m sewing away.
Am debating whether or not to tell Mom about it. She will want it.

I ‘loaned’ my mother my Kenmore about 10 years ago, and she is still using it.
NEVER loan a good solid sewing machine to a seamstress.

8. Dave in Texas - November 28, 2006

a ’51?

Those things were made of iron and steel. You could sew a dress for the Statue of Liberty with one of those hummers. You could build the Eiffel tower, out of brawn and steel.

Mom had a 55 I think, until 75 or so. Traded it for some other less than cool model.

I still have her old sewing maching table. Refinished it in 97.

9. Michael - November 28, 2006

Mrs. Michael is also a skilled seamstress. She has actually been paid to make wedding dresses. After a lifetime of using normal sewing machines, she went high tech about a year ago. Exactly the opposite of your retro approach, Laura. She has a sewing machine called a Bernina Artista. Operating this thing takes a graduate degree. Seriously, she’s been taking classes, which are included with the cost of the machine. She is hooked on quilting, and apparently this machine is good at it. She can scan a picture and the machine will reproduce it as an embroidery with unlimited thread colors, but that’s really not necessary because it comes with software that has a huge library of designs for virtually any person or occasion. She just finished a set of Christmas napkins. Now she’s doing embroidered aprons for all the relatives for Christmas gifts. Each 4X4 embroidery will have 23 thread colors and 25,000 stitches. It’s frickin’ amazing to watch her and this machine at work. I think there’s an attachment we can get so it will tune up my car.

10. sandy burger - November 28, 2006

Michael, maybe we should introduce your wife’s sewing machine to my Roomba. Who knows, they might hit it off.

11. lauraw - November 28, 2006

My mom is a professional seamstress.
She made my wedding dress. $400 of shimmering Dupioni silk,silk organza sleeves and neck, and lace flowers appliqued in a trail across the bodice.
A personalized handmade dress like that would probably have fetched $5000 in a boutique.

I keep telling her to go into biz for herself but she tells me to can it.

12. steve_in_hb - November 28, 2006

Sandy –

Suction, cleaning, and sewing – a perfect woman.

13. Sir Walter Scott - November 28, 2006

At Doune, o’er many a spear and glaive Two Barons proud their banners wave. I saw the Moray’s silver star, And marked the sable pale of Laurawr.’ ‘By Alpine’s soul, high tidings those! .I love to hear of worthy foes. An then I toot, and blows my nose.

14. lauraw - November 28, 2006


15. Dave in Texas - November 28, 2006

heh heh heh


16. lauraw - November 28, 2006

This is why your sister locked you in a closet for nine hours, Dave.

17. Dave in Texas - November 28, 2006

none of em were big enough toots.

it’s been 30 years. I’m not the sibling that still bears grudges.

18. geoff - November 28, 2006

I’m not sure I’m following DinT’s train of thought here. Maybe my problem is that I’m juxtaposing this statement:

An then I toot

with this one:

none of em were big enough toots.

Or maybe that’s the way he meant it.

19. Michael - November 28, 2006

So, like me, you guys are really excited about the smog-eating properties of titanium dioxide. Right?

I thought so.

20. Dave in Texas - November 28, 2006

Always like to keep my audience riveted!

21. Feisty - November 28, 2006

I’m DAMN excited.

And I’m excited about that too, Michael.

22. Michael - November 28, 2006

Cuz, you know, sometimes I like to put something on this site that is actually informative or something, so it’s nice to get all the positive feedback and feel the love.

23. geoff - November 28, 2006

So, like me, you guys are really excited about the smog-eating properties of titanium dioxide

I’ll have you know that after reading your post I actually looked up the photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide – very interesting. But I’m sure that interest in the subject pales compared to lauraw’s photophobic complexion.

24. geoff - November 28, 2006

So Dave@GR is going dark for awhile? It sounds kind of dire – I hope everything’s OK with him.

25. Michael - November 29, 2006

Thank you, Geoff. I’ve always thought of you as the Not Retarded Commenter. Frankly, I don’t know why you are here.

26. Dave in Texas - November 29, 2006

You let that shit loose in the San Fernando valley for a few months and take a picture of the ocean from the eastern side and I’ll get all xited, I promise.

Hell, take a clear picture of Burbank. I’d settle for that. Both my nipples will be tingly erect.

27. geoff - November 29, 2006

Frankly, I don’t know why you are here.

I’m a funny guy. Really. Really, really funny. Like, when I make wisecracks people are always making a “hunh” sound, which I’m sure is mirth (and lots of it). So like I’m saying, I’ve got funny locked.

But you guys kill me.

28. Feisty - November 29, 2006

So Dave@GR is going dark for awhile?

Every time Dave has a setback, he goes on hiatus for a “long time” which turns out to be like a day or two.

29. Wickedpinto - November 29, 2006

My aunt had an old pedal sewing machine (she’s the one who’s actually related to me, and married to the cool as unk) she wasn’t a seemstress, or whatever, she only made doll clothes for her rather expensive china-doll collection. But when you described the flip top table and all of that, I thought to myself “thats too flogging cool.”

titanium, as a pure element is one of the most energy starved elements to produce, I don’t know how titanium oxide is produced, if it is just seperated from titanium ore, but I’m betting that if titanium ore is so expensive, processing titanium ore is so expensive, titanium oxide as a common anti-smog filter the likelihood is that titanium oxide would actually increase the level of smog in other locations, because of the likely energy requirements.

As for clearing up smog, Numerous small, and dense “parks” that aren’t opened to the public filled with dense bushes, and landfills.

Methane interacts with co and makes co2 plants eat co2 and make oxygen.

Hell, just surround the land fills with algae gardens.

30. The Comish (sic) - November 29, 2006

I think it’s great that Rome and the Vatican are taking steps to clear up their smog. As beautiful as parts of that city are, it’s a shame that so many of their monuments are covered in black soot. When I was there, I thought some of the monuments were black until I saw students scraping their initials into the soot, revealing white rock underneath.

It’s also pretty funny to hear Europeans lecture Americans about air pollution, considering that smog is practically a thing of the past in America, and it’s practically a growth enterprise in Europe.

By the way, is it wierd that I found Wickedpinto and Geoff’s posts fascinating? Maybe all those fart jokes were just my brain’s way of saving up smartness until I saw those posts. Maybe I’ll be all Flowers for Algernon now. I’ll use math and science to solve the world’s pollution problems, create food in the desert, and balance my checkbook.

Or maybe I’ll just watch Talladega Nights again.

31. Wickedpinto - November 29, 2006

Okay, just did a Wiki search, which is very incomplete, but apparently titanium dioxide is naturally occuring, so it would only require seperation for more dense and pure forms that can be harvested.

The pedia isn’t very thorough in other aspects, but, I retract my energy comment, Also, the paints aren’t well defined in how much TO2 is necessary to make the “coatings” (all called paints now adays) So, I don’t have enough reference.

I don’t retract all, but much of my previous, and I now say that what is left is apparently “questionable.”

Sorry for my assumptions based on pure titanium.

32. lauraw - November 29, 2006

I thought the article was interesting, Michael.

There ya go buddy. Have fun with that. I’m gonna run along and draw moustaches on the ladies in the Sears catalog.

33. Mrs. Peel - November 29, 2006

Look, when I get home from a long day, I’m not in the mood to read anything more intellectually challenging than Harry Potter.

That’s just the f’n way it is.

I’m in for some fun times starting next week (assuming all goes as planned) because I will be on the 11p-8a shift. That will be interesting.

Oh, and I just received a nice belated birthday present from the friend who, early this summer and before I met my new boy, took me on a totally lame friend-date the entirety of which he spent talking about another woman, who is now engaged. Judging by the gift and what he said in the card, I think he might be transferring his affections to me now that the other is almost irrevocably beyond his reach. I find this amusing, but also sort of sad.

And I still haven’t heard from my other friend. Starting to get pretty concerned. I wish we had a mutual friend I could subtly contact and ask to look him up, but we are the only people in the intersection of the Venn diagram of our worlds.

But I have one more trick in my bag. However, I’m hesitant to deploy it, because if it works, I may never speak to him again.

And now, off to work.

34. Mrs. Peel - November 29, 2006

Thanks to facebook stalking (not the trick of which I was speaking), I can now cheerfully yell, “You bastard! Fuck you,” at my computer screen.

Ahh, feels good.

35. kevlarchick - November 29, 2006

A sewing machine. How cool is that. Wish I knew how to use one. I’ll be sending all my socks up the road to be darned by Mrs Michael.

36. see-dub - November 29, 2006

What a wonderful technological development and what an ugly church.

37. JunkYardBlog - November 29, 2006

Ugly Church Watch: Whiter Than Snow

Michael at Innocent Bystanders posted an interesting story about a church in Rome (actually in the suburb of Tor Tre Teste) that was painted with Titanium Dioxide, a compound that was found not only to stay really bright white, but…

38. Robbie Nickles - January 4, 2008

My mom was eager for a foot pedal driven sewing machine, but when she got it, she painted it flat black and called it an antique>:o) why?

39. John Foreworthy - April 19, 2008

Was that ever built? Or is it just a concept?

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