Taylor Clay Products develops roof tile that cleans the air

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2011

12/07/11 by Juanita Teschner
Taylor Clay Products in Salisbury has developed a concrete roof tile that acts as a catalyst to absorb nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are precursors to air pollution. It is one of the first companies in the nation to use this technology.
Charles Taylor, the company’s owner, hired German native Berthold Mueller to develop the process at Taylor-Clay. “When I ran into Berthold, he had been working in this field and had international contacts to help put this process together,” Taylor says. “With his involvement, he is key to the success of this project. He has jumped on board to make these processes work here.” Plans are under way to expand into other parts of the country as the company further develops the process.
The technology involves extruding – rolling and tightly pressing – two thin layers of titanium onto the tiles. Using only a quarter inch of titanium keeps the cost of the tiles significantly lower than using larger amounts of the NOx-absorbing material.
“I wanted first and foremost to have a roof tile that the average man could afford to put on his house for a lifetime roof,” Taylor says.
This tile has the added benefit of improving air quality. Mueller cites statistics which indicate that 14 billion pounds of roofing shingles are removed from U.S. homes each year.  If they were replaced by the NOx-absorbing tiles, it would be the equivalent of removing an estimated 23.6 billion car miles of emissions from the air, according to his calculations.
When it rains, the nitrogen oxides are washed off the roof onto the lawn, serving as a fertilizer. “I kid around and say when it rains, it puts nitrogen in your yard and your grass grows faster so you have to mow it more,” Taylor says.
The roof tile, even without the titanium covering, contributes to the mitigation of ground-level ozone pollution. “One of our employees put this roof on his house, and his power bill this summer ran $25-30 a month less than the year before,” Taylor says. “If everyone’s power bill would go down $25-30 a month, then power plants wouldn’t have to generate as much electricity, and that would reduce their emissions, which contribute to air pollution.”
The company has plans to partner with other companies in the United States, building smaller machines that can make the volume needed in other areas, which will significantly reduce freight charges to transport the tiles to the customer.  Taylor notes that this, too, will help improve air quality. “It will eliminate shipping freight, which is highly pollutant,” he says.
This, in turn, will positively impact the health of citizens. Numerous scientific studies have shown that air pollution causes or exacerbates a number of diseases. Children and the elderly as well as people with lung disease and those who work or exercise outdoors are particularly susceptible. In the United States each year, air pollution causes 70,000 deaths – three times the number caused by traffic accidents.
The Metro Charlotte area, which includes Rowan and Cabarrus counties, has a particularly high level of air pollution. The most recent American Lung Association report lists this area as having the 10th worst ozone pollution in the nation.
Manufacturing this environmentally friendly roof tile is just one of many things that Taylor-Clay Products is working on that will benefit the environment. “We are very conscious of the environmental movement in our country,” Taylor says.
Noting that his company was the first brick manufacturing plant in North Carolina to install scrubbers to curb air pollution, he adds, “We are looking into the future and trying to find an efficient, more permanent way to address the challenges we face. We need to move as quickly as we can to develop technologies and products that will be affordable and will also help our environment.”
Mueller notes that the titanium-surfaced tile meets the needs of U.S. residents without compromising the environment. “Everybody needs a roof,” he says. “If we can do something good – prevent waste from going into the landfills, clean the air and produce fertilizer for our lawns – and also have roof that lasts a lifetime, is there anything better?”
The Center for the Environment at Catawba College was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on prevalent environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country. For more information, visit www.centerfortheenvironment.org or www.campaignforcleanair.org.