A scientist and an award winning poet have teamed up to create a giant poster that uses nanotechnology to gobble up pollution. The poster can absorb the poisonous compounds from around 20 cars each day if you put it by a busy road.
Prof Tony Ryan (the science expert) and Prof Simon Armitage (the words expert), both from the University of Sheffield, came up with the idea to highlight one possible way to cut disease and save lives by taking poisonous compounds from the air in our towns and cities. The 10m by 20m poster is coated with microscopic, pollution-eating nano particles of titanium dioxide, the same stuff they use for self-cleaning windows.
Professor Ryan comments: “If every banner, flag or advertising poster in the country did this, we’d have much better air quality. It would add less than £100 to the cost of a poster and would turn advertisements into catalysts in more ways than one.”
Simon Armitage, who’s professor of poetry at the university, has written a poem to go on the poster. It’s called “In Praise of Air” (See Below). The poster will be on display in Sheffield for the next year.
A poem for the poster, by Simon Armitage
I write in praise of air. I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I’ve carried it with me ever since.
Let air be a major god, its being
and touch, its breast-milk always tilted
to the lips. Both dragonfly and Boeing
dangle in its see-through nothingness…
Among the jumbled bric-a-brac I keep
a padlocked treasure-chest of empty space
and on days when thoughts are fuddled with smog
or civilization crosses the street
with a white handkerchief over its mouth
and cars blow kisses to our lips from theirs
I turn the key, throw back the lid, breathe deep.
My first word, everyone’s first word, was air.