I grew up in a duplex, my mom warned us that the walls have ears. Now the walls can have lungs too. Germany-based Blücher Technologies has created a material called Saratech Permasorb Wallpaper that removes toxins embedded in wall surfaces, improving the air inside the room. This breathable “paper” is actually a non-woven glass fiber/polyester covering that’s applied to interior surfaces like traditional wallpaper. The wallpaper houses thousands of tiny spherical “absorbers” that look just like the poppy seed mess from my morning bagel.
These spheroids, in turn, contain thousands of branching passageways: architecture that mimics the structure of our lungs. Pollutants are absorbed from the walls and stored within these open passages, making this the first wallpaper that actually cleans the air.
The Blücher website says the size and shape of the absorbers are crucial to product performance. Particle size distribution, mechanical properties, and surface chemistry can be customized to suit requirements of each project.
Off-gassing of building interiors has tangible impact on our health and well-being. Common symptoms of exposure include headache, nausea, and dizziness and can intensify into severe allergic reaction and fatal poisoning.
Contaminants stem from construction materials used widely in the 1960s and 70s (such as PCB, PCP, and pesticides), but now banned in many countries. Industrial toxins from former paint shops and dry-cleaners, as example, are absorbed by interior surfaces and over time, unless remediated, are re-released into the atmosphere. Permasorb is especially applicable to retrofits of buildings subjected to years of contaminate build-up.
The filtration works from both sides. As one side sucks chemical pollutants out of the walls, the other allows clean air to escape into the atmosphere.
I emailed Blücher to see if the paper absorbs any of the 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke: if it did, I might ask to become their Jordan sales rep. The sales assistant replied that this wallpaper has been developed to prevent contaminants migrating out of the wall into the air. It can’t clean the air in the room itself.
As soon as contaminants hit the air, air filtering systems are needed to clear them away. Permasorb can’t replace mechanically ventilated systems. (For an alternative try Better Air that cleans with probiotics).
The company suggests that their product is an excellent solution to “sick building syndrome” as it can be direct-applied over lead-based paints and surface coatings with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Designers could rev up their buildings’ air-cleaning capacity by using smog-busting paint to coat exteriors.
It’s an intriguing concept with loads of practical applications. I wonder if, years on, subsequent retrofits will need to treat the used wallpaper as hazardous waste?