Strange solutions to climate change


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.

There\’s more to this idea as well.

TiO2, add sunlight and water, and via a catalytic reation you get the water split into oxygen and hydrogen.

Somewhere out there (I corresponded with them way back when) is a team of Australian scientists trying to make this work. Make roofing tiles out of TiO2 containing slag (of which there is an abundance lying around: even if not, TiO2 is cheap enough, running around $500 a tonne today, it\’s the white in white paint for example) and you can generate hydrogen.

Store said H2 and you can then run a fuel cell off it: either heat the house or run a car etc.

Yes, there are engineering difficulties in how you actually capture the H2, but the basic idea does work.

There are more weird and whacky ways of dealing with climate change than windmills you know, things that Greenpeace and FoE have never thought of.

Which is exactly why we\’d really rather like to simply have a carbon tax and let these different technologies fight it out, rather than trying to \”pick winners\” and other such absurdities.

11 thoughts on “Strange solutions to climate change”

  1. To make this one work with a carbon tax, wouldn’t you need it to be some kind of Negative Carbon Tax? (I should copyright that one)

    In that you are talking about taking the gases out of the air, not avoiding emissions in the first place – where a normal carbon tax would be in principle be effective. You would need to pay people for the removal not just charge them if they emit.

    Of course, I think that an effective and appropriate carbon tax is fools’ gold anyway. It’s like Keynesian stimulus, no plausible political system can deliver it.

  2. Amusingly, the 1996 Stephen Poliakoff play Blinded by the Sun is built around a scientist who fraudulently announces just this – easy solar water-splitting using a TiO2 catalyst.

  3. “it’s the white in white paint for example”

    I’ve always wondered why we don’t paint our roofs white. It would keep our houses cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Assuming TiO2 tiles would be white, wouldn’t this be an additional benefit?

    Tim adds: This was recently studied using the satellite images on Google Maps. Turns out that hotter places do already have lighter coloured roofs. Colder places darker. Clay tiles against slate etc.

    Because in hotter places you want to cool the house, which light roofs do, while in cold places you want to capture the heat, which dark roofs do.

  4. Kevin
    Been there, done this one. If you actually do a comparison between roof albedos northern to southern Europe they rise as the climate gets sunnier. That’s the result of 2000 odd years of building experience.
    (Dark roofs are better in the north because they capture winter sun heat.)

  5. Hi “Bloke in Spain”,

    If that’s the case then that’s the case but I don’t understand why.

    In winter, I assume that the house is warmer than the outside air. Perhaps it has more to do with the nature of the heat transfer i.e. conductive/convective/radiative. I guess that means the house radiates less ‘out’ than the sun radiates ‘in’ despite the house being warmer. I can’t think of any other explanation. It seems unlikely though. If you stuck a thermal imaging camera on a house in winter I’m fairly sure you’d be able to see infra-red radiation being emitted *from* the house.

  6. Tim – I may be mistaken here but I think you’re only looking at one side. There’s electromagentic reciprosity going on here. A surface painted white will prevent radiation to the same degree as it reflects radiation. Therefore white surfaces insulate infrared and black surfaces conduct infrared – equally in both directions.

    I suppose it’s quite odd to think that a radiator painted white is insulated but it’s true, isn’t it?

  7. White paint itself has beensuggested as a way of ending warming. Basically if all the reroofing & road repairs in the world had to be done in white the amount of extra sunlight reflected would be enough to lower the temperature by a degree or so.

    I wouldn’t want it done because I think that, if there is any warming at all it is at a beneficial rather than damaging level.

    The eco-fascists don’t want it done for the same reason they don’t want nuclear – solving “problems” is not their objective because their objective is to frighten us into giving the parasites power & money.

  8. So when it rains your roof emits hydrogen?

    Presumably whole towns blowing up during thunderstorms is a price worth paying to defeat climate change.

  9. OK, to those above who doubt the roof albedo thing, guy suggested this a couple of years ago. Paint all the roofs white.
    Try measuring roof albedos north to south down Europe using Photoshop & Googe Map satellite images. Roofs get lighter further south as the roofing materials change. Try Salobrena in Granada Province, Spain. You need welding goggles to look at it on a bright day. Try a northern mill town.
    A dark roof will capture heat even on a dull day in winter as you’d know if you’d ever worked in one. That’s when you need the heat. In daylight hours when folk are up & around.
    Conversely in the south you want the house as cool as possible during the day. Night’s not so important.
    Couple thousand years of building evolution & that’s exactly what you’ve got.

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