Like many other inventions, the antismog cement was born by chance. In the laboratory of Italcementi, an Italian company based in Bergamo, chemist Luigi Cassar was working to create a plaster that maintained its whiteness despite pollution and atmospheric agents. "The turning point was the utilization of titanium oxide, which would make the buildings 'whiter than white'", Dr. Cassar explained to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Thanks to subsequent surveys, the team realized the air in the proximity of their buildings had a 50% lower concentration of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. After many observations, they proved their cement was triggering the beneficial reaction. For this reason, they patented it as "self-cleaning concrete".
The innovative idea this time came from a 76-year-old retired man, with nine nephews and a great bulk of experience in the filed. Luigi Cassar was born in Tripoli in 1938. He started working in the laboratory of Montedison, a big financial Group focused on chemistry. Then, after spending many years dedicated to research in the U.S. and Switzerland, he returned to Italy. Here he worked first at Enimont and then at Italcementi, the first company in Italy for production of building materials.
"It wouldn't be fair to say that the creation of this cement was just by chance", states Cassar. The discovery came from cooperation between Italcementi, Cnr (National Council of Research), the University of Ferrara and the European Research Centre based in Ispra. Now, the "self-cleaning concrete" is concurring as finalist for an important title: the European Inventor Award in the category of Industry. The ninth edition of this award ceremony will take place in Berlin on the 17th of June. After a small session of meet and greet, six winners will be recognized in the categories of Industry, Non-European Countries, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Research, Popular Prize and Lifetime Achievement.