On the Tiles: Barry Goralnick Goes to Coverings 2013, the Tile and Stone Megashow

Last month I attended the Coverings Tile & Stone Show, which this year was held in Atlanta. It was huge–more than 900 exhibitors–and I saw a lot of innovative new product. Here are some technological advances that caught my eye.

Ceracasa Ecom4 ceramic floor tiles

Energy-saving Ecom4 tiles from Ceracasa are warm to the touch

Spanish tile manufacturer Ceracasa unveiled a new breed of high-tech tile that could cut your energy bill by 16 percent. The phase-changing tiles feature nano energy storage cells that excel at absorbing thermal energy–meaning they keep interior spaces comfortable for longer with less energy input from climate control systems. Here’s how they work: the phase-changing materials contained within the tiles start to fuse together when a room hits 72 degrees fahrenheit, at which point they begin to store thermal energy. This stored heat is then released to warm the room later when the temperature drops below 72 degrees. This evens out the thermal profile of a room over time and reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain a comfortable temperature. The phase-changing capabilities also gives the tiles a surface temperature that is roughly equivalent to the temperature of ambient air in a room, so they are comfortably warm to the touch–even a baby can crawl on them without getting cold. The tiles are suitable for floors or walls, and the more surface area you cover, the better your energy savings will be.

Crossville Porcelain Stone Tiles

Crossville offers Hydrotect, an antimicrobial, self-cleaning, and air purifying coating on most of its porcelain tiles

The American brand Crossville Inc. introduced something you can’t actually see: Hydrotect, an optional invisible coating with antimicrobial, self-cleaning, and air-purifying effects, that’s available on most of the company’s porcelain tile collections. With its hydrophilic and photocatalytic properties, Hydrotect, a nanotechnology developed by the TOTO Corporation, effectively kills odor-causing bacteria, significantly reduces dirt and oil accumulation, and rids the air of odors and nitrous oxide. And because it is fired on separately from the glaze, it will not wash or wear off over time. Put simply, you won’t need any of those cleaning products that pollute the environment.

Smart Wall from Tau

The Technical Ceramic Wall from Tau acts as an electrical switch

The Technical Ceramic Wall from the S3 Smart Surface Systems division of the  Spanish company Tau is mountable and demountable panel by panel, thanks to a mechanical system that also provides space enough to conceal conduit, wires, ventilation, and the other necessary apparatus of modern  interiors. Furthermore, the ceramic tile surface acts like the touch screen on a smart phone courtesy of  a reactive glaze that effectively functions as an electrical switch for lights, climate control, TVs, and other appliances (just touch the butterflies and flowers, or whatever design you want, on the tile surface, and presto!). No more light switches: how cool is that?

Ceracasa Bionictiles

 Bionictile by Ceracasa cleans the air in the same way a tree does

Ceracasa’s Bionictile is a ceramic product capable of cleaning the air by breaking down harmful pollutants. The tiles are treated with a titanium dioxide glaze that breaks down nitrous oxide in the presence of sunlight and humidity through a photocatalytic process. In order to maximize the tiles’ air-cleaning capability the ceramics feature a biomimetic structure modeled after the leaves of trees–you can see tiny rivulets and crannies in the tiles’ surface that serve to trap pollutants.