21 May 2014, 16:40

Those eco-conscious, rejoice: poetry in UK cleanses heavy air pollutions

Those eco-conscious, rejoice: poetry in UK cleanses heavy air pollutions

The billboards cutting through cloudless skies in one of English towns have more to them than just poem lines, beautifully inscribed on their surface. The material used to carry the 122-word poem is made from a unique formula developed in the University of Sheffield in the UK. Another one of its professors, award-winning playwright and novelist Simon Armitage, has, by the way, authored the lines of "In Praise of Air" jumping off the picturesque "page."

So, where's the trick? The billboard is coated with titanium dioxide particles, a recognized agent that uses sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants, thus literally purifying the air.

Experts have calculated that the 10-meter by 20-meter piece of the billboard material can eliminate the amount of the toxic nitrogen oxide produced by roughly 20 cars in Britain daily, just think of the potential the method may have in the scope of the whole world.

The technology costs just peanuts, adding about only less than £100 to each ad that would resort to it, and if the wonder coating could be included in every flag, banner, or advertisements alongside busy city roads they could turn into a real air rescuer.

"This is a fun collaboration between science and the arts to highlight a very serious issue of poor air quality in our towns and cities," professor Tony Ryan, who is also the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science, shares his views.

The poem can be seen on one side of the University's Alfred Denny Building and it will be on display for the entire year. The unveiling also signals the start of the annual Sheffield Lyric Festival, with everyone capable of taking part in the public reading of Armitage's breakthrough poem, with a bit of useful science attached to it. In the end, the author is expected to take the floor and explain the message behind the inscription to the general public.

Tony Ryan's words sound well intriguing ahead of the event:

"The science behind this is an additive which delivers a real environmental benefit that could actually help cut disease and save lives."

The discovery, pioneered by professor Ryan, is not brand new, however, since in a number of previous studies he has already tried to introduce it into clothing and even suggested it could be used in detergents manufacturing. Titanium oxide is unbelievably promising, putting a new spin to ecology and chemistry developments.

And, finally, to enjoy the arts to the full, we suggest that you take your time and go through the wonder making poem lines:

In Praise of Air

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.

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