How TiO2 helps create durable, versatile, attractive and efficient kitchenware for better, more sustainable cooking.
As any owner of a set of enamel cookware will confirm, cast-iron, porcelain enamel is one of the toughest, longest-lasting and most versatile types of kitchenware. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a crucial element in the creation of porcelain enamel for cookware, contributing to its unique look and providing heat absorption, acid resistance and antibacterial qualities.
While lightweight stainless-steel pots and pans have become widely used in recent years, enamel cookware has remained a popular and reliable choice in homes and with chefs since the mid-1800s for a number of reasons:
- The iron base of enamel cookware distributes heat evenly, cooking food more consistently both in the oven and on the stove
- The non-reactive enamel glaze prevents the pan’s iron from rusting or discolouring, lengthening its life-span
- Enamel is naturally non-stick, and therefore requires less oil or butter with cooking, making it a good companion for healthier eating
- Enamel is scratch proof, so not only does the non-stick surface last a long time, but it also prevents deposits or a metallic taste contaminating the food
- The durability of the enamel glaze keeps the colours and surface quality of the pots and pans from deteriorating for decades, making this a sustainable option as the cookware doesn’t need to be replaced as often. As a result, is often handed down as heirloom kitchen pieces to the next generation.
Porcelain enamelling also offers the freedom of colour options and designs, enabling cooks to match their kitchenware with their interior décor.
How does TiO2 enhance porcelain enamel?
Porcelain enamel (also known as vitreous enamel) is a thin layer of ceramic or glass applied to a metal object to make it denser, shinier, and more durable and attractive. TiO2 is added during the manufacturing process of porcelain enamel to provide a range of important qualities to cookware that improve its usefulness and appearance, including:
- Fantastic colours
- TiO2 is mainly used as an opacifier in the production of porcelain enamel and is added to help create opaque, white coatings at lower temperatures. This enables the coating to be used on a wider range of metals
- The glossiness of transparent glazes is improved with the addition of TiO2
- TiO2 in its rutile (base mineral) state has been found to have colour-changing properties when added in different amounts
- Glazes that contain TiO2 are also phototropic (change colour in different lights) and thermotropic (change colour when heated), offering even more attractive colour options for manufacturers and consumers
- TiO2 also adds depth and brilliance to the palette of coloured enamels used on cookware to expand the design and contrast options available to brighten the kitchen
- Heat absorption
- TiO2 enhances the thermal properties of the enamel coating, improving the ability of the cookware to heat up and cool down – ideal for managing temperatures during cooking and retaining heat in the pot, making it the best material for Dutch ovens
- Acid resistance
- Enamel cookware is resistant against acids such as citric (lemons, limes) or acetic (vinegar) acids, which are regularly used in cooking and cleaning products. The addition of TiO2 to porcelain enamel increases its chemical resistance to acids, giving the cookware a much longer life
- Antibacterial qualities
- Studies show that the addition of TiO2 to enamel gives the coating antibacterial qualities, due to its photocatalytic properties. While this is primarily useful for applications in hospitals and laboratories, TiO2 in cookware helps ensure sanitary food production by protecting against the bacteria that cause food poisoning
The history of porcelain enamel
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Mesopotamian used porcelain enamel in art and crafts, and there are examples of enamelled gold and silver jewellery dating back to the 13th Century BC. In more recent times, this process has been used in Faberge eggs, known for their extraordinary depth and opulent beauty, which were created by layering many rich pigments of enamel.
The Industrial Revolution inspired more functional uses of enamelling, as users became aware of the durable, heat-resistant and long-lasting qualities of the coating. The first successful attempts at porcelain enamelling were developed in Germany in the mid 19th century to coat cast-iron cooking pots and larger items, such as bath tubs, to prevent rusting.
Why TiO2-enhanced porcelain enamel is a sustainable solution
TiO2 adds to the resistance and durability of porcelain enamel, resulting in longer-lasting products, which prevent waste and therefore contribute to the circular economy.
But porcelain enamel is not only used for sustainable cookware. Due to its scratch-proof, stain-proof and heat-stabilising qualities, TiO2-enhanced porcelain enamel can also be found in a huge variety of helpful applications outside the kitchen, from blackboards to hospital equipment, to road signs and architecture, all of which are designed to withstand the test of time.
As we look to making our homes and kitchens more sustainable, TiO2-enhanced porcelain enamel looks set to be a key feature in an increasing range of versatile and durable products, for years to come.