0602ctt clean air feature lo res

0602ctt clean air feature lo res

Smog in Shanghai, China. Credit: Lei Han; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As the Earth’s population continues to balloon, the threat posed by air pollution and ensuing climate change becomes more real every day. We are changing the planet, and often not for the best.

Air pollution has been a hot topic of debate and action recently in China, where air pollution is cited as the fourth biggest health threat. Anti-smog bicycles, bagged mountain air, and other inventions have been cropping up as band-aids, albeit creative ones, to the underlying problems.

We at CTT write a lot about the efforts and advancements towards clean energy and environmental initiatives (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples) that will help mitigate new pollution.

But some interesting initiatives to help clean the existing polluted air also are popping up, and use clever materials and integrative designs to help us all breathe easier.

A scientist–poet duo from the United Kingdom’s University of Sheffield has one simple solution—make a poster that pulls double duty to both promote a message and promote clean air. They call it catalytic poetry. (Why didn’t I think of that?)

Scientist Tony Ryan and poet Simon Armitage put their brains together to develop a titanium dioxide nanoparticle-covered poster, 10 m by 20 m, that can rid the air of pollutants from about 20 cars every day, according a report by the BBC

0602 clean air poster lo res

Credit: University of Sheffield

They tiny photocatalytic titanium oxide particles react with atmospheric oxygen to produce two oxygen-free radicals, which react with water to generate pollutant-nixing peroxide. The poetic poster can rid the air of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by neutralizing these compounds into simple and harmless soluble molecules.

According to the article, Ryan says, “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 [$167] to the cost of a poster and would turn advertisements into catalysts in more ways than one.”

The poster, hanging at the university for the next year, is printed with a poem written by Armitage, “In Praise of Air.” Head over to the website to read the air homage and watch a video of the installation.

In other smog-busting architectural designs, Italy’s Palazzo Italia in Milan will soon be getting an environmental facelift to clear the air. The new façade, designed by architects at Nemesi & Partners, features an estimated 2,204 tons of air-purifying i.active biodynamic cement developed by Italcementi.

According to the Italcementi website:

“The product’s name is a summary of its innovative characteristics. The ‘bio’ component is given by the product’s photocatalytic properties, originating from the active principle TX Active, patented by Italcementi. In direct sunlight, the active principle contained in the material ‘captures’ certain pollutants present in the air and converts them into inert salts, helping to purify the atmosphere from smog. Additionally, the mortar is made from 80% recycled aggregates, part of which consist of scraps from the cutting of Carrara marble, and therefore provide a superior brilliance compared to traditional white cements. The ‘dynamic’ component is a specific characteristic of the new material, whose particular fluidity allows the creation of complex shapes like those found in the Palazzo Italia panels. Thanks to its high workability, i.active BIODYNAMIC is able to penetrate in the frameworks, designed one by one and manufactured by Styl-Comp, and form the final design of the panel, ensuring an extraordinary surface quality.”

And if that’s not environmentally-friendly enough for you, the structure will also don a photovoltaic glass roof to bust out some solar energy. Click here to view the full image gallery.