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Sat, Nov

Catalytic converters

The University of Sheffield is purifying the air around a poster it is displaying for a year. What’s more, it says the technology used to do it could be cheaply applied to other printed billboards.

A 20m x 20m printed banner hanging on the side of the University of Sheffield’s Alfred Denny Building is cutting pollution thanks to the use of a new technology that its developer says could be applied to other billboards.

The project has been born out of a collaboration between Simon Armitage, professor of poetry at the university, and pro-vice-chancellor for science, professor Tony Ryan, who came together to create a catalytic poem called ‘In Praise of Air’ printed on material containing a formula invented at the university which is capable of purifying its surroundings.

Ryan, who came up with the idea of using treated materials to cleanse the air, said: “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.

“The science behind this is an additive which delivers a real environmental benefit that could actually help cut disease and save lives. This printed poem alone will eradicate the nitrogen oxide pollution created by about 20 cars every day.”

He sees a role for this “cheap” technology to be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution elsewhere.

He added: “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. The countless thousands of poster sites that are selling us cars beside our roads could be cleaning up emissions at the same time.”

The material on which ‘In Praise of Air’ is printed is coated with microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide which use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air.

Following over 12 months of development work with the University of Sheffield, Northern Flags completed the printing, treatment and installation of the ground breaking banner produced using dye sublimation techniques on a specially selected fabric to allow the absorption of catalytic chemicals.

Iain Clasper, managing director of Northern says of the project: “This has been an exciting project to be involved with over the past 15 months and has capitalised on our group’s ability to work with clients on innovative projects. We are excited about this development as this now gives us the opportunity to work with our clients to roll out this type of treatment on their external marketing banners.

“It's a great innovation and will enable clients to clean the air around buildings and forecourts, ensuring that their fabric based promotional flags and banners are eco-friendly during their use as well as being recyclable after the campaigns have been completed.”

Dr Joanna Gavins, from the university’s school of English, and project manager for the catalytic poem collaboration, says: “This highlights the innovation and creativity at the heart of the university and its research excellence.

Armitage, the poet involved, adds: “I've enjoyed working with the scientists and the science, trying to weave the message into the words, wanting to collaborate both conceptually and with the physical manifestation of the work.”

The poem will be on display on the side of the university's Alfred Denny Building, Western Bank, for one year.

Ryan has also been campaigning for some time to have his ingredient added to washing detergent in the UK as part of his Catalytic Clothing project. If manufacturers added it, the UK would meet one of its air quality targets in one step.

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