Italcer Group launches ADVANCE, Antibacterial & Bio-Air Purifying
The new eco-active, anti-pollutant and anti-bacterial ceramic slabs developed through two years of research and an investment of 2.7 million euros will be launched onto the market in September.
The new ADVANCE line of anti-pollutant and anti-bacterial porcelain slabs developed by Italcer Group, which registered the patent in late 2019, will be available on the market as of September this year.
The result of two years of research and a total investment of 2.7 million euros, ADVANCE - Antibacterial & Bio-Air Purifying is a highly innovative latest-generation ceramic material capable of reducing air pollutants and eliminating over 99% of the bacteria present in the environment, thereby helping to purify the air and make floors and walls cleaner, healthier and more hygienic.
The important news was announced by CEO Graziano Verdi: “The present situation reminds us that all over the world hygiene is crucial for our collective health and safety. This discovery will help improve these aspects in both public and private sectors, if we think of all its potential uses in indoor and outdoor spaces.”
Due to their unique properties, ADVANCE slabs are suitable as floor and wall coverings and for exteriors and ventilated facades, as well as for all applications where standards of cleanliness, health and hygiene are an important requirement, especially in the current unique circumstances. Examples include private homes, wellness centres, hotels, restaurants, gyms, schools, clinics, laboratories, hospitals, airports and many more.
“The ADVANCE line is the result of our team’s important work in collaboration with Prof. Lesci and the significant investments we have made in R&D amounting to over 3% of turnover,” adds Verdi. “Starting at the end of September, all the Group’s companies and brands (Ceramica Rondine, La Fabbrica Ceramiche, AVA, Elios Ceramica, Bottega and Devon&Devon) will be able to benefit from these innovative materials and open up significant new market spaces in contemporary architecture, thereby expanding the Group’s activities both in Italy and at an international level”.
According to the manager, the Advance - Antibacterial & Bio-Air Purifying patent will allow Italcer Group to generate 10 million euros worth of additional sales over three years.
The research results
The mastermind of the ADVANCE project who led the team right from the beginning is Professor Isidoro Giorgio Lesci, an internationally renowned chemical researcher, owner of 15 patents and author of over 50 scientific publications. “After more than two years of research, we have developed an innovative formula based on a biomimetic approach,” he explains. “In other words, it is a natural process that is replicated through a sustainable industrial procedure using a range of materials widely available in nature (e.g. titanium, copper, nickel, tin). These are mixed directly into the body and fixed by means of a porous material support without the use of organic solvents.”
“Thanks to a spontaneous transformation in a first firing process at over 1200°C, we were able to obtain both an anti-pollutant and an antibacterial action, as certified by the University of Turin,” explains Lesci. “In 3 hours we observe a 20% reduction in NOx (the main pollutants derived from the combustion gases of cars and industrial activities); in 8 hours more than 99% of Escherichia coli, one of the most common and dangerous pathogens, is eliminated in accordance with ISO standards.”
In practice, the photocatalytic process converts volatile pollutants into harmless products in the presence of natural or artificial light or moisture. This is all achieved in a single firing process, bringing clear savings in terms of energy and costs.
Moreover, Advance may also become the first ceramic material with antiviral properties, specifically the ability to reduce both dwell time and viral load. “Since bacteria have a more complex biochemical structure than viruses, we took the decision together with Italcer to carry out tests on Covid-19 and other viruses at an internationally renowned specialist US laboratory,” explains Prof. Lesci. “I believe there are good prospects that this material will be able to denature the virus’s glycoprotein component and thereby inactivate it.”
The Italcer group
Founded in 2017 by Graziano Verdi and Alberto Forchielli (chairman of the Mandarin Capital Partners fund), today Italcer is a group made up of leading Italian ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings companies (Rondine, La Fabbrica, AVA, Elios, Bottega and Devon&Devon). It employs 530 people and reported a value of production of approximately 205 million euros in 2019 and an EBITDA of over 32 million euros. 80% of turnover is generated from exports.
In the last three years, the Group has invested more than 25 million euros in Industry 4.0 technologies and expects to make further investments of 10 million euros a year over the next three years.
Italcer Group’s CEO Graziano Verdi is relatively optimistic for 2020, despite the difficult scenario caused by the Covid-19 emergency and the protracted lockdowns in several countries. “We are beginning to see the first signs of a market recovery,” says Verdi. “Despite a very good start to the year (in mid-March we posted 8.5% growth), we closed the first quarter with a 3.2% contraction due to the lockdown. However, our forecasts of a 30% downturn for June were overly pessimistic and in reality we will be able to limit our losses to 10% and expect to return to positive territory as early as July. In the German market, for example, we are already on course to meet our 10% growth forecast with respect to 2019.”