TOTO and Italian company Laminam sign partnership agreement

Ceramic slabs for building facades to feature self-cleaning HYDROTECT technology.

TOTO, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of sanitary products, holds the patent for HYDROTECT – a self-cleaning technology that works on the basis of photocatalysis. Laminam is Italy’s leading manufacturer of large-scale ceramic slabs used on building facades and in other applications. With HYDROTECT, it is possible to create ceramic slabs which would clean themselves.


The companies have signed an agreement defining their close future collaboration. With Laminam, TOTO has a partner who can use HYDROTECT in a profitable way. Laminam benefits from this cooperation by expanding its product portfolio with ceramic slabs featuring intelligent, self-cleaning surfaces.


How does HYDROTECT work? Once exposed to sunlight, the titanium dioxide-treated surface triggers a process that breaks down all organic substances on the surface. The rain simply washes the dirt particles away from the surface. HYDROTECT also neutralises nitrogen oxide to clean the air.


Large exterior façades are an ideal application for HYDROTECT. The economic and ecological advantages are obvious. In addition to saving on cleaning costs, this solution helps protects the environment over the long term. Just 150 m² of outdoor façade treated with HYDROTECT cleans the same amount of air as a forested area measuring 1000 m².


A wide range of different materials can be used to create exterior façades and outdoor surfaces, including aluminium, paint, glass, tarpaulins, etc. – and all of these can be treated or equipped with HYDROTECT. In the past, HYDROTECT has entered into a number of other partnerships, including with Casalgrande Padana, Saint Gobain, Pilkington and Alcoa.


Info box: More about HYDROTECT

The process of self-cleaning using photocatalysis originated in Japan, where the principle was discovered. A new generation of coatings and glazes was developed on this basis. Photocatalytic finishes enable progressive functions that benefit both people and the environment.


In 1967, Japanese scientists Akira Fujishima and Kenichi Honda (University of Tokyo) discovered the active cleansing effect of titanium dioxide in photocatalysis. They researched this phenomenon, now known as the “Honda-Fujishima Effect”, and published a report entitled “The Effect of Photokatalyst TiO2” in Nature magazine in 1972.


However, the passive cleansing effect of photocatalysis was only discovered in the 1990s by development engineers at TOTO, the Japanese bathroom manufacturer, who were collaborating with the University of Tokyo. The passive cleansing effect is based on the hydrophilic properties of titanium dioxide. Surfaces treated with titanium dioxide dramatically reduce the surface tension of falling water. Instead of sliding off the surface as individual drops, the water flows off the edges in the form of an ultra-thin film – removing all dust and dirt particles in the process.


Unlike the so-called lotus effect (hydrophobia), water applied to the titanium dioxide-treated surface was able to eliminate even oily or greasy substances without leaving any dirty film behind.


The first active cleansing effect of photocatalysis discovered by researchers occurs due to the light-sensitive titanium dioxide, which is embedded in the surface layer in the form of tiny particles. If these particles are exposed to UV light, oxygen from the surrounding air is chemically activated. This activated oxygen destroys organic matter along with other pollutants without attacking the surface. In other words, the dirt literally dissolves in the air. Together with superhydrophilic elements, photocatalysis from the titanium bond represents the ultimate self-cleaner – both environmentally friendly and sustainable. This type of cleaning is ideal for areas that are difficult and costly to clean – like large building façades.


The air-cleaning effect is extremely significant for the environment. Once the sun shines on a surface treated with HYDROTECT, it forms activated oxygen – which neutralises nitrogen oxide to improve air quality over the long term.


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