Pollution is in the air. Ninety-nine percent of the world's population breathes air that exceeds the quality limits recommended by the World Health Organization. Lower-income countries are more exposed to small particle pollution. In addition to respiratory diseases such as asthma, air laden with harmful substances kills seven million people a year worldwide and without directly affecting our health, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the main greenhouse gas causing the climate crisis.
Faced with this dual health and environmental problem, mining civil engineer Matías Moya decided to look for a tool to capture these pollutants from the fluid we breathe. He found the answer in nanotechnology. Thus, Photio was born: an additive for materials such as paints, fabrics and asphalt that degrades polluting gases by interacting with light. "It turns any surface into an air purifier," says the young Chilean. Thanks to this approach, Moya has been chosen by MIT Technology Review in Spanish as one of the 35 winners of Innovators under 35 Latin America 2022.
Photio's nanoparticles 'clean' just like a tree by mimicking its photosynthesis process: they use solar energy to degrade polluting particles present in the air. Its additive is incorporated into paints, concrete, coatings, and other mass-use products such as synthetic leather and converts them into decontaminants. Moya explains: "It is an accessible way of transforming the main sources of contaminating gases, buildings and transport into pollution sinks."
With thousands of square meters already painted with his purifying material in Chile, the young man wants to launch his air decontaminant products in more countries. Faced with such a serious problem as air pollution and the climate crisis, Moya provides society with tools to tackle it together thanks to technological innovation. And he knows that it is not enough to act locally in the face of global challenges; it is also necessary to project his progress internationally.