PerspectiveSURFACE SCIENCE

How titanium dioxide cleans itself

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Science  24 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6404, pp. 753
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau6016

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Summary

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a white pigment that is widely used in paints, medicine, paper, sunscreens, and toothpaste. Other applications include photocatalysts and solar cell coatings (1). TiO2 coatings appear to have self-cleaning properties: When exposed to sunlight, TiO2 reacts with water to generate hydroxyl radicals, which break down organic molecules and microbes adsorbed on the surface. When it rains, water spreads out on the hydrophilic TiO2 coating and washes away dust and dirt. On page 786 of this issue, Balajka et al. (2) use atomic-scale probes and spectroscopy to characterize the molecular-scale self-cleaning mechanism of TiO2 surfaces.