In the runup to our Innovation Forum 2011, we are conducting a number of short interviews with some of the presenters at the event, which takes place October 11-13 in San Francisco.
Our second preview comes from Kevin Kramer, Alcoa's President of Growth Initiatives who tells us about how the company collaborated with Toto to develop wall panels that wipe out pollution in nearby air and how the innovation will play a role in future products.
Tilde Herrera: You'll be giving us a sneak peek of the development of Alcoa's so-called "smog-eating" building panels. Can you tell me how they work and how they're different from anything we've seen on the market?
Kevin Kramer: In short, Alcoa scientists developed a proprietary process that applies Toto’s Hydrotect technology as a titanium dioxide coating, called EcoClean, to the pre-painted aluminum surface of Reynobond, Alcoa’s aluminum wall panel product.
The result is a product that, when combined with sunlight, acts as a catalyst to break down organic pollutants on its surface and in the air around it, like smog, into harmless matter which is then washed away by rainwater.
In fact, 10,000 square feet of Reynobond with EcoClean has the approximate smog removal power of 80 trees.
The EcoClean coating is super hydrophilic, so water doesn’t bead on the surface. Instead, the elements pull the water closer to the coating and it collapses into a flat shape, causing the surface to become extremely slick. This allows rainwater, even the slightest bit, to slide right off Reynobond coated with EcoClean, taking the broken down organic pieces of dirt, grease and grime with it. This results in a building that is constantly washed, leaving a better appearance and lower maintenance costs.
TH: Why did Alcoa pursue this technology? How do the panels fit within the company's business strategy?
KK: Alcoa's partner, Toto, has been researching and developing titanium dioxide products for more than a decade. Independently, Alcoa has been researching a number of advanced surface technologies at Alcoa’s Technical Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh.
Several years ago, Alcoa Architectural Products was asked by a customer if there was a product that could keep their facilities cleaner and brighter to maintain the image they wanted for their brand. After consulting with ATC, we began researching to see if we could apply titanium dioxide to painted surfaces via coil coating. Combining Toto’s patented Hydrotect technology, ATC’s surface technology experience and Alcoa Architectural Products’ coating expertise, we eventually developed the product that today is known as EcoClean.
Our business strategy is driven by our passion and commitment to innovating sustainable solutions for today and tomorrow. Alcoa has maintained our strong focus on innovation even during a relatively flat period in the Building and Construction (B&C) market and in fact, has grown market share during this time.